Have you ever noticed that divorces seem to come in groups, like public celebrity outbursts of insanity? That's been going on recently in my life. Not with my own marriage, mind you -- my wife has a laser pointed at the moon and has threatened to blow it up if we have so much as a minor disagreement. (You're welcome for that, by the way.) But I do have several friends who are wading through some pretty thick shit at the moment, and it got me thinking about some really common mistakes that I've seen happen over and over again through the years. Hopefully you'll never have to go through it. But just in case, try to keep the following in mind ...
#6. Close All Joint Accounts
One of the first lessons I learned after my own divorce years ago was that I couldn't just get my name removed from a joint checking account because apparently the accounts are created with demonic blood. The entire thing had to be closed and a new one started from scratch. And if the account is overdrawn (ours was), you are still responsible for taking care of the debt and the associated fees before you can do that, even if you weren't the one who overdrew it in the first place. Because of that, my first solo checking account cost me about $150 and a blow job before I even put money into it.
It's extremely important to take care of that stuff as soon as humanly possible when you know a divorce is inevitable. I'm not telling you to close the account and take all the money for yourself -- you have to resist the urge to be a thieving fuck. But keep in mind that once the relationship is severed, you're no longer drawing from the same financial well, and you have to start treating your money as your money. If that money is sitting in a bank account with both of your names on it, it's extremely easy for one or both of you to slip into the trap of "Shit, I'd better spend it before he/she does." It's best to just pull the money out, split it evenly, and close the account. Trust me -- banker dongs smell like poor people's anuses.
The contract is written in the impending tears of regret.
A similar problem popped up a few years later. When I moved out, my ex and I had forgotten to change the utility bill from my real name, Bicep Sexplosion, to hers, Dick Guillotine. She was going through some pretty rough times financially and had been late on quite a few payments. I was moving into a new house, but my old apartment had been a utilities-included arrangement, so I hadn't dealt with that company in years. When I tried to get the utilities turned on in my new place, I was surprised with a delinquent bill that wasn't my fault, as well as a big fat-ass deposit requirement. They were one step short of coming to my house and spanking my ass with a handful of live rattlesnakes wrapped in barbed wire.
She and I were able to work out an arrangement between ourselves so I wouldn't be screwed, but if she wanted to, she could have easily shoved that bill up my ass and told me, "Man, it sucks to be you. Thanks for eating my debt, bitchlips."
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And that would have made me very sad, as I am demonstrating in this picture.
And while we're on the subject of debt ...
#5. Take Care of Joint Debt ASAP
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Let's say you don't have any kids and all of your friends and family died in a Civil War re-enactment where someone accidentally used a real cannon instead of a prop. The divorce has been finalized, and now you never have to see each other again as long as you live because you have nothing or no one binding you to each other.
Except at bill time, because the judge didn't just split the assets down the middle -- she also split the debt. (And the dog ... it was horrifying.) Now take the utility bill example I gave in the previous point and apply that to your life, monthly, until the debt is completely paid off. Every time one of you fucks up, it directly affects the other's credit. If one of you defaults, the other is stuck with the full bill. If one of you dies or gets so sick that you can't work, same outcome. If one of you declares bankruptcy or overthrows the government, there's another mile-long set of legal problems to deal with.
My God. She took the mace and the morning star. This is going to be bad.
It's easy and somewhat stupid for me to just flatly say, "Pay off your debts before the divorce gets finalized." For most of us, if we had the ability to take care of the debts right now, we wouldn't be in goddamn debt. But you'll have a much easier time chipping away at it as a collective effort than you will when you're on your own and hoping that the other person lives up to their end of the deal. In situations like this, hope is a game of Russian roulette with a dildo-firing crossbow.
What most people don't realize is that after a marriage ends, there's a significant period where both parties take a pretty brutal financial hit. It takes time to adjust to a single income, let alone one that's taking the additional shots from alimony, child support, and living as a single parent (yes, even factoring in the help from those support payments). Unless you already have a pretty healthy nest egg to work with, you're going to find yourself playing a dangerous game of trial and error where the bills are concerned until you find your new financial rhythm. And that means there's a pretty good chance that at some point, one of you is going to be faced with the decision of "rent or old credit card debt?" And just like that, even though you didn't really have much of a choice, the other person is now eating your debt like a Fear Factor grub worm challenge.
Because evidently "fear" and "gross" mean the same thing.
#4. Don't Use Assets or Custody as a Weapon
Man, that sounds so obvious when you read it, but I can't tell you how many times I've seen this in action. No matter how logical and necessary the divorce may be, I don't know of any marriages that were broken up with a mutual discussion filled with reason and calculated deduction. It's almost always one party who's had enough, and the other gets blindsided by the news. Because of that, there's usually one person breathing a sigh of relief that it's finally over and another who's angrily planning revenge sex with hobos.
This is the biggest upside to hiring a lawyer in these situations. The fact that they couldn't give less of a fuck about your emotions allows them to coldly propose compromises that don't involve you going to jail for revenge-stealing the cat or smashing your shit into all their clothes.
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While they're wearing them.
It's not always easy to do. If you're the one who's been handed those papers, you're going to feel betrayed. Your spouse is viewing them like a notice of surrender. He or she has finally stopped fighting to save the marriage, and it's time to give up. But to you, those papers are a direct attack. They are the shot that started the war.
The urge to fire back can be overwhelming. Demanding to have an object that you could care less about simply because you know your wife has an emotional attachment to it. Talking shit about your husband to your kids because "They deserve to know what kind of a person their father really is." It's a dirty, evil game, and nobody walks out of that unscathed. Using those things as weapons creates a lifelong hateful connection, and that's not good for anyone. Trust me, you don't want to support and validate their already negative perception of you. "I totally expected that kind of behavior from you. That's just the type of person you are. It's why we got divorced in the first place. Thanks for reminding me. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an appointment to fuck all of your friends and three hobos."
Great. One of them forgot to de-bark the toy.