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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Because evidently "fear" and "gross" mean the same thing.

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4
Don't Use Assets or Custody as a Weapon

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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."

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Great. One of them forgot to de-bark the toy.

3
Don't Take Legal Advice from Friends

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I don't care if they've been through more divorces than Elizabeth Taylor, your friends don't know jack dick compared to a lawyer. I've heard people claim everything from knowing the exact amount of money a person will get in the settlement to "Even if he doesn't have custody, if he leaves the state for any reason, you can throw his ass in jail!" Their thundering idiocy could be measured on a seismograph.

They're basing their advice on their experiences, which is fine if we're talking about emotions or how to get new people to shout insults at your genitals without thinking it's weird. But from a legal standpoint, they're not understanding that the court takes tons of factors into consideration when deciding who gets what, including the kids. Income, type of work and the hours spent there, religious beliefs, special needs of the parents and kids -- hell, if they're old enough, some courts will flat out ask the kids in private if they have a preference on which parent they'd like to live with. And if they answer correctly, that's where they get their wizard powers.

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And now you're all gonna pay.

The solid laws pertaining to divorce are mainly there to prevent anyone from being screwed, and that's about where it stops. No, you can't just grab the kids and run off to another state without the other parent's consent. There's a set-in-stone law for that. But because each family is different, divorce proceedings require quite a bit of flexibility and liberal discretion of the judge. You have a job that requires you to move to another state? OK, let's work this out and come to an agreement on custody and visitation.

But no, what happened to your friend during his or her divorce has little to no bearing on you, even if every facet of your lives match up perfectly. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't take what they're saying into consideration. If they've gone through it, they can give you lots of valuable information so you're not going into it blind. Just make sure you're filing that advice in the "It's Possible" folder and not the "And God Has Spoken" one.

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"Ah, here we go. 'Talking Out of Ass'."

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2
You Are No Longer Emotionally Responsible for This Person

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As harsh and cold as this sounds, a divorce proceeding is a business deal. The emotional value of a house means nothing to a judge who's trying to figure out a way to split that asset evenly and fairly among two disputing people. If you pay close attention, every time someone cries, the judge makes a jerkoff hand gesture under the bench.

I've witnessed a ridiculous number of divorces over the years, and some of the most common things I've heard have been "She's just doing what's best for her!" and "He's not even considering my feelings on the matter!" That's a perfectly natural reaction to have, because you've grown accustomed to that level of relationship with that person. You expect her to act and react a certain way because it's how she's always been with you. But here's another stinging truth: She doesn't have to anymore.

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All he feels is the forever beckoning breath of mortal release.

This is no longer an emotion-based relationship. When that marriage was severed, so was the responsibility for each of you to protect and care for the other. Your job right now is to put up an offer that best benefits you and work your way down to a compromise. That's not being selfish -- it's a normal, everyday business tactic, and both sides should be doing it. It is an unfeeling, robotic process, and if you don't treat it as such, it's going to be very easy for you to get screwed. That's not to say that there aren't couples who separate and pleasantly work everything out with generosity and fairness and sparkles and impromptu musical numbers. I'm saying it's exceedingly rare.

But you can't let yourself be shocked if the other person stuffs your feelings into their asshole and farts them out the window when making these decisions. And you sure as hell can't blame them if they don't want to sit down and discuss the emotional side of the divorce with you. I've known plenty of divorced couples who, in a gesture to remain friends, offered to openly and honestly talk about the issues. Most of the time, that ended with one person thinking they could change and get back together, or another giving them the finger and saying, "Go fuck yourself. I'm not talking about shit with you."

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"Here's one for you. And another for the sperm that eventually became you."

Where that's concerned, you owe each other nothing. If you expect them to consider your feelings on pretty much any issue after a divorce, you're setting yourself up to depend on their approval and support. That's a safety net with human-size holes.

But above all, even if you don't agree with a single point in this article, or if you remember nothing I've said up until now, please, I'm begging you, remember this one thing ...

1
You Cannot Make Mutual Friends Choose Sides

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You're going to have to face something right off the bat, and it's so hard to do, it feels damn near impossible. You have to remind yourself that even though it feels like you and your spouse are the only ones being hurt by this process, the reality is not even close.

Every family member who has gotten close to you is now preparing to rarely or never see you again. Every mutual friend is now going over what's appropriate and inappropriate to bring up in conversation around you. Anyone who hung out with you as a couple is coping with the fact that they're losing that company. If a mutual friend hangs out with your ex and has a crazy, awesome time, they can't tell you the story because they know it'll upset you. If there's an event they'd like to invite you both to, now they have to pick one, effectively playing favorites. Which means no more furry orgies for one of you.

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"This is BULLSHIT!"

All of that is hard enough to deal with. You can't add to that by unloading all of your bitterness and anguish onto them in an attempt to make your ex look bad. "Remember the time she said she didn't have $20 to loan you? She actually had over $4 million from her human trafficking ring."

Talk to your friends all you want about the divorce. It's fine to unload the emotion if you need to -- that's what friends are for. Just ask Dionne Warwick. But you cannot put them in a situation where they have to choose one of you to remain friends with. If so, you're probably the one they should consider ditching.

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Although honestly, that hat puts you securely in "fuck off" territory anyway.

The best advice I have here is if you absolutely have to vent and talk shit about your ex, do it with a friend who's exclusive to you. Let's face it: If that person isn't friends with both of you, it means they probably hate your ex anyway. They'll relish the opportunity to give you an "I told you so" and agree with every offensive name you drunkenly slur through your bitter, bitter tears.


John is a columnist right here at Cracked with a new article every Thursday. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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