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Advice for the separating/divorcing
from those who've been there!
I am starting this thread as I am so sad and angry and disappointed at reading threads on here and coming across women IRL who are woefully unprepared and ignorant of what can and does happen during a divorce/separation.
Who don't know their rights, don't have support, don't know where to get support and don't know where to start.
I'll begin with my story hope that's OK.
I was one of these women and I wish I could prevent it from happening to others. I want to focus on the practical issues but understand how difficult it is to keep these separate from the emotional ones.
I was married and a sahm with a toddler. Sbexh is in the forces. I discovered he was cheating. I confronted, he denied, he was given an ultimatum and he chose to spend that night with ow1 (there were 2 at the same time). I threw him out but as he's forces that meant I had 90 days to find alternative accommodation and get money coming in somehow. I hadn't a clue!
We were in the middle of nowhere, my family were hundreds of miles away and my only friend there had just moved overseas as a result of her dh posting.
My first mistake was thinking he would at least not leave dd without. But despite knowing I had no source of income he emptied the joint bank account.
He then took the car in the middle of the night having initially saying he would let me have it until I could get something sorted as we were at the mercy of an erratic minimal bus service.
I started job hunting but this was mid school year and it prove impossible to get childcare (again partly due to where we were). Plus by this point I hadn't worked in the UK for 6 years, hadn't worked at all for 2.
Upon realising this and running low on supplies I went to the job centre to ask for advice on benefits. I'd never claimed before so didn't even know what any were called! They pretty much made a good job of implying I wasn't entitled to anything (not true).
I went to the council regarding getting somewhere to live to be told that as I had no family there, no job, no connection to the area I wasn't even entitled to go on a list. This was true of almost the entire UK as I am a military brat. I couldn't afford to move to where my family were hundreds of miles away. They couldn't afford to give me the money either.
So...toddler daughter and I are soon to be homeless and have no money or transport.
Then I very luckily bumped into an old acquaintance who by now worked for shelter. She advised me to contact them for advice on the housing situation. When I called I burst into tears and told the person everything. They signposted me to a local benefits advice charity as well as getting me in touch with the local housing associations and telling me that what the council had said was not entirely correct.
The benefits charity (sadly now no longer existing) were amazing. I discovered the following:
That I needed to open my own bank account in a bank completely separate from where our joint account was held (including where seemingly different banks are actually owned by the same company).
That really what should have happened legally is the joint account frozen (personally I think I should have emptied it myself!)
That I could get the child benefit paid into my account as I was the RP. That I could receive payments weekly as a LP instead of having to wait (at that point) 3 weeks for when the next payment was due.
That I was entitled to income support and child tax credit and the sooner you claim the better. Also if you're not a nuisance in chasing the claim being put through you're basically put at the bottom of the list. Those who shout loudest etc
That I could put in my claim to CSA as soon as we split (he'd led me to believe I couldn't claim until divorce finalised, part of his job so thought he was right. Turns out this was deliberate misinformation that wives are given). Same true of this as benefits, you have to make yourself a nuisance to get heard. Even though I did, even though CSA knew exactly where ex was and how much he earned could be easily checked it still took 2.5 years till I saw a penny! My (unbelievably tory) MP was the one that finally got things moving for me on this.
I should have had him give me his car key and house keys. I thought as it was a quarter I couldn't stop him from entering the house. Again misinformation from him. I would return home to find him there and it was very jolting.
The charity while sceptical on some counts did suggest contacting ssafa. Ssafa were very helpful in negotiating some things like the march out date but I felt were still very much on the side of the serving soldier so some information they gave me was either deliberately wrong or they were misinformed themselves.
We were lucky enough to get a ha house a couple of weeks before we'd have been left with nowhere (council would have put us in a run down b&b).
Between ssafa and the charity we were able to get our removals costs covered.
I was then entitled to housing benefit and council tax benefit. By this point I was a student so had financial help there too. I'd continued looking for work before starting my course but to no avail.
As things became more settled for my daughter and I at home I realised my solicitor was rubbish!
The divorce proceedings were being held up by ex sitting on papers he was meant to sign and return (by this point ow2 and he were 'together' ow1 had been posted and ow2 was pregnant) I suspect ow2 was wanting to get married before baby born.
Contact for dd was erratic and unreliable. He was supposed to see/have her for the day at the weekend but would cancel/turn up late/drunk.
Last straw with solicitor was when the situation with contact reached a point where I was almost forced to hand dd over even if I thought he was going to drink drive with her in the car.
I was in tears in the solicitors firms office when I suddenly thought 'perhaps like in America' (this is how naive I was!) You could sack one solicitor and get a better one. I asked one of the paralegals who was the best in town. She told me the name of a solicitor in a different firm (very brave of her). I made an appointment but had very little hope this solicitor would take my case. Luckily she did. Within 6 months she had everything sorted that I needed sorted then!
Since then things have still not always run smoothly but I'm much more clued in and less likely to think I'm powerless.
I've also met both online and IRL other women who've been/are going through the nightmare that is splitting up with someone.
I've heard seemingly unbelievable horror stories and the worst ones I've actually been able to verify!
My personal advice would be (and I know I'm going to get flamed/told x y z is illegal well sorry but I personally think the system is weighted against lone parents so I'm gonna say it anyway!)
If you know you're leaving before they do collect and put in a safe place all relevant financial paperwork.
Open a bank account completely independent of your ex's bank
Empty the bank accounts before they can. Especially if they have an income and you don't (SAHPs especially).
Change the locks/get the keys removes from ex.
Get an appointment with wa/cab/ssafa/benefits charity/DWP/council (housing benefit etc)/shelter as necessary asap
Claim benefits, reduction in council tax, CSA asap (if you know you're leaving before they do get the forms and complete as much as possible ahead of time. Most can be completed almost in full so that all that's left to do at the point where you're eligible to claim is sign and date)
Get a good assertive solicitor - recommendations are best. Afaik (may have changed since I dealt with this) all divorce solicitors are meant to be with the family law society? But this does not mean they're the best.
Put all agreements in email/writing so there's a 'paper trail'. Letters get delivered by recorded delivery so the recipient can't claim they never received (one of the issues with my first solicitor. Ex was forever saying he'd not received stuff. 2nd solicitor sent recorded to him at work so there were witnesses too!) This includes contact arrangements and any disputes with that.
Ensure school/nursery know the situation and who is/isn't allowed to collect dc and that they stick to that. I think most are pretty good on this now but I know of a case where the abusive ex who was only supposed to have supervised access on at least one occasion collected his dc from nursery and disappeared for several hours. The mother was frantic!
I'm sure there's more I've forgotten and other posts will remind me of.
Triggered by another thread:
Ex's hiding assets/money.
Ex's that are self employed.
This wasn't something I had to deal with but I know it can be a problem. Se especially a problem wrt maintenance (claiming they're earning less than they are for calculations).
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