Divorce: Money in the early stages
If your spouse depends on you to pay the bills and you don’t give some reassurance that you’ll help, your spouse will be forced to get an attorney and file for a support order, then your life gets dragged into court, lawyer wars, conflict and huge expense. You really don’t want that. It’s no solution when the lawyers end up with all of your money and you still owe them for fees.
Much better if you promise to help with the bills until you’ve both had some time to think, adjust, discuss the terms of your separation. Be very reassuring. Ask your spouse to look at this site and work with you on these steps. Offer to make a temporary agreement in writing that will reassure both of you about money and parenting, just for the short term.
If you depend on your spouse to pay the bills, your goal is to get stable and secure for a few weeks or months while you figure out what to do next. Here are some suggestions.
While you wait to see if the ideas below work out, struggle hard to find a way you can take care of yourself, at least in a very modest way in which you can be safe and secure for a while. Maybe you can get help from friends or family or your faith community. As a very last resort, consider public assistance.
If your spouse does not actually have money to spare, you’re stuck with the self-help steps above, but if you think there’s enough to share, move on to the next steps.
Send your spouse the address to this page, or print it and mail it.
Get yourself a copy of Make Any Divorce Better and get one for your spouse. Send it with a nice note explaining that the book has good advice and steps you can both take that will help you work things out without ending up in a horrible legal battle, and you hope that some day you can discuss the ideas in the book together or, if necessary, with the help of a mediator.
Wait a week or so, then send a polite message to your spouse, either in a letter or through a diplomatic friend or clergyman—someone who definitely will not add to the tension—that you know it’s hard for both of you, but you need some help with the bills and if you can’t work out a temporary arrangement at least for a few months, you will be forced to get an attorney and go to court for a support order. You really don’t want to do this because it will be hugely upsetting and expensive, an unnecessary waste that will be bad for everyone. It would be so much better for both of you to make a temporary arrangement.
If nothing works with your spouse and you can’t get short-term help from friends or family, you have three choices:
- If your spouse has wages or assets you can attach for support, you’ll have to get an attorney and go to court for a support order. Read Who can I call?
- Got kids? Every state has an office in charge of obtaining and enforcing child support orders. Ask at the courthouse where they are and how to contact them.
- If your spouse doesn’t work or changes employers frequently or otherwise isn’t worth taking to court for support, you’ll have to try to get public assistance until you can support yourself on your own. Focus on stability first, then work toward a peaceful resolution of your divorce, following advice on this site, Nolo Tips, and in Make Any Divorce Better.
Tools that can help
Give your spouse a copy of Make Any Divorce Better
Got kids? Read Child support: How much?
The package includes everything you need to organize your facts, your documents and your thoughts—Personal History, Income and Expenses, Parenting Plans, a Parenting Reality Check and a Sample Settlement Agreement. Before you reach an agreement, you exchange these worksheets with each other to show there was full disclosure before your agreement was signed.
Heavily in debt? Dealing with debts
DealMaker—Settlement agreement software. Guides you through every step of making a sophisticated agreement then writes a draft agreement ready for signatures or review by an attorney-mediator. Includes worksheets for cases with or without minor children with both simple and detailed parenting plans and worksheets to help you work it out. DealMaker handles real estate and pension funds. Valid in every state.
Ben Parkinson says
I’ve already gotten $1,056 a month alimony but all of it got eaten up in attorneys’ fees and/or social worker’s fees. Now, my attorney says that I have to retain him for another month so that I can get assets and/or more alimony. It’s a vicious cycle that never seems to end.
Nolo Press Occidental says
We feel your pain. This is the kind of thing that motivated Ed Sherman to start the self-law movement many years ago. We are still doing our best to make the divorce process easier and less stressful for you, and others like you. You didn’t say if you were in California, or some other state, but if by chance you are in CA, you might want to take a look at our spousal support software at https://nolotech.com/divorce-software/calsupport-software/.