Author Topic: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces  (Read 5032 times)

aikoaiko

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Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« on: February 09, 2017, 02:52:55 PM »
Hi,

     I've been on this board for a while but don't post very often. Over the next month or two I am going to be filing for divorce from my husband and I have some questions about doing it inexpensively that I thought MMM members might be able to answer.

     First, a little background I guess (I'm not including actual numbers so I didn't think this should go in as a case study?):

---I am 49 yrs old and have been married 25 yrs.
---I have 3 sons---one in college (22yo), and two at home (19 & 17)
---I live in NY state (upstate in a rural area)
---I have owned one house with my husband for the duration of our marriage, which has been refinanced several times
---I've been working 3 part time jobs, one of which is seasonal (May-Oct), the other of which is online, and the last of which usually hits full-time status from Jan-June during a typical year.
---None of my jobs provide health insurance
---My husband has a full-time job with benefits that he's had since we married
---I am currently separated and living in a spare bedroom in my parent's house next door

     My husband spends a lot of money which is what led to the separation, so there are no savings as a result. About 2-3 years ago I got wise and opened a separate bank account (I know, I should have done it sooner:( ). I have managed to save a little, but am still underfunded when it comes to larger ticket items or the possibility of hiring a lawyer for the divorce. I just finished a second Master's degree which I hope will land me a F/T job this summer with benefits.

       But anyway, I was just wondering if anyone here has advice for me.  I've been trying to do a lot of research and apparently there are some reputable online divorce services that don't charge much. Does anyone have experience with these? This would be an uncontested divorce and I'm fairly sure my husband and I could work out a property arrangement that would not involve the courts. I waited to separate until the kids were older so custody wouldn't be an issue.

       Since this divorce was my idea (he did not and does not want it), I'm trying to make it as peaceful as possible. Since he refuses to leave the house I have told him he can have it, and have said I don't expect alimony if he gives me a share of his pension and 401K. The mortgage on the house is in both our names now and our current agreement states that he covers the bills to support it (since he will be keeping it), and I covering the costs for my car, groceries for he and the kids as well as kids' school/college related costs. My husband doesn't save and basically lives paycheck to paycheck so it's possible he won't be able to keep the house, but I don't want to force a sale because it would mean my kids would lose their home (and the house they grew up in, etc).

       My plan after all this is to get a F/T job (I hope), then find an inexpensive apartment where the kids can live with me if they like before they move off on their own. In an ideal world I would like to do the divorce myself without lawyers or the cost they incur. I have some savings but my husband has nothing, which makes it highly unlikely I could get alimony or anything else like that. I stayed home while my kids were growing up so I'm pretty much starting from ground zero. If anyone else has been through this and has advice on how to avoid the pitfalls, I would very much appreciate it.

Thanks a lot for the input.



   

notactiveanymore

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2017, 03:26:05 PM »
I believe what you are looking for is divorce through mediation.

Some info about NY divorce mediation:
http://www.nysmediate.org/
https://www.nycourts.gov/ip/adr/divorcemediation.shtml

I don't have much experience here, but my one recommendation is that you make sure you get off of the mortgage through him refinancing and off the deed through a quit claim deed form.

GizmoTX

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2017, 03:36:17 PM »
It sounds like you are just walking away by trying to buy 'peace'. No matter how reasonable couples are in the beginning, it's my observation that it almost never ends that way. Lawyers & courts exist to help not make it one sided. Given the duration of the marriage, you should be claiming half your joint property. Even if you get a decent FT job, you may be in a world of hurt down the line because you don't have much time to build a nest egg, & every bit counts.

If your husband does lose the house, your sons also lose anyway. I agree that you must get off the title & mortgage or you will be held responsible if/when he defaults.

I wouldn't do surgery on myself, nor would I attempt a divorce or will on my own either, because the fix for any probable mistake is likely to be expensive. I don't have any personal experience with any kind of divorce, so I can't be helpful other than to say that you need to consider your own interests more. Sincerely, good luck.

Kroaler

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2017, 04:05:01 PM »
My mother is a paralegal in my state.    She walked a friend through the process of doing a divorce themselves.  IDK about your state but it can be done in mine. 


However, both parties really need to want it and be VERY agreeable.      Your situation sounds like it could get un agreeable really fast.

PJ

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2017, 05:08:17 PM »
+1 on getting off the mortgage/deed of the house and having everything tidied away with no strings left to tie you two together.  That includes, if you are going to support him with the remaining costs for the kids, that you pay school stuff directly, and if necessary, transfer X amount of money to him monthly for groceries and other support.  X being, of course, a set amount that you work out between you and/or what the state dictates, not, "Oh, we had to do a big re-stock this month, so I need a bit more money."

I don't personally have experience with this, but I did journey very closely with one friend going through a similar situation years ago.  She, like you, was willing to settle for a little bit less than she was entitled to, in order to make things easy.  (In her case, she took responsibility for all the debt, mostly incurred by his gambling, and left him with the car that she had paid for - she knew he would default on the debt and leave her with it anyway so it gave her peace of mind to just know what she needed to do, and she also knew he couldn't keep his job without the car and she loved him enough not to want to leave him with no means to support himself.)  It's your choice, what you would rather do - walk away with less, but not have to deal with the hassle and the potential damage to the relationship?  Or get at least some of what you're entitled to, to better secure your financial future.

Two thoughts, if you do decide to push for more than what you've outlined:

1.  If the primary retirement plan for you both was to live off his pension/401K (I'm Canadian, I don't know your terms!) then you should absolutely be entitled to part of it and part of any equity in your matrimonial home.
2.  You are not "forcing the sale" of the home, though it's possible that his financial situation will force the sale of the home.  In other words, you're happy to see him re-finance the house to buy you out (or even, if you decide you just want to be done with it easily) to carry the whole mortgage.  But if he can't qualify to do so, then you still need to be off the mortgage/deed, his limited resources not-withstanding.  He can choose what he does with that information - maybe he could get a friend or international student or someone to move in and share the costs?  Or find a way to boost his income to qualify on his own?  Or maybe he'd have to sell.  But that would be the bank's financing requirements fault, not yours.

I know that I haven't really answered your question about cheap processes for getting the divorce done, but I just had to weigh in about that other stuff.  I wish you luck with all this, and hope that things look up for you in the future!

Iplawyer

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2017, 05:29:02 PM »
You will need a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) issued by the court to get half his pension and 401K.  You will take that and serve his company with it so that he doesn't muck up his pension and leave you high and dry. Take your half of the 401K now and roll it over into an IRA so that you, not he, will be in control of it.  There will be no tax consequences.  You will be entitled to half of what he gets for social security when you reach that age (as long as you don't marry again before that and as long as it is more than what you qualify for yourself) by federal law - and it doesn't take any away from him. 

You must insist that he refinance and in the process take your name off of the deed to the house.  It is possible to refinance with cash out as long as that doesn't put you over 80/20.  You should make him do that and take the cash out as your share.  You should make him cover you on COBRA for 18 months.

And for God's sake - get a lawyer.  There could be family law clinics in your town - look into it.  Got the county clerk's office and ask.  But you wouldn't treat cancer yourself - would you?  This is not the time to scrimp on something.

aikoaiko

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2017, 07:33:56 PM »
       Thanks so much for all the great advice.  I guess I'll look into a lawyer, though I'm willing to leave him with a little more in order to keep peace in the family and make it easier on my kids. I'll have to think about all the advice and decide exactly what to do. Thanks so much for the help!

MsPeacock

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2017, 07:46:56 PM »
This book is helpful:

https://www.amazon.com/Your-Divorce-Advisor-Psychologist-Emotional/dp/0684870681/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486694460&sr=8-1&keywords=your+divorce+advisor


My divorce was horribly expensive. It sounds like you are going to avoid a battle over custody issues, so that is good. There is what you are entitled to (likely half of all marital assets), and what is fair from each party's perspective, and what you are willing to settle for in order to get thing wrapped up. A contested divorce is super expensive, so there may be quite a bit of distance between all three of those points.  Unfortunately, it only takes one disagreeable person to make a divorce really expensive.

I agree that you have to get your name off of the mortgage or any other debt that isn't yours. How that is done (e.g. refinance) won't be your problem to solve.

Your local courthouse likely has forms and instructions and some DIY information for divorce. A lot of people can't afford lawyers, or have nothing to argue over (no assets). You might want to check-in there (phone call) and see what assistance and information is available for free. Having a lawyer read through papers that you have written up will save you some money. Also, don't pay a lawyer to make copies or mail things - do that sort of stuff yourself. 


historienne

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2017, 08:40:40 AM »
You should start by consulting with a lawyer (you may need to pay for this - it's worth it) to find out what a court would be likely to order in your case.  It doesn't mean that you have to go to court, but it will give you an idea of 1) what the outcome is likely to be if you are forced to, and 2) whether other settlement offers are reasonable.  It will also help the QDRO process.  From watching a friend go through it, that is a highly specific process that can easily be screwed up if a non-professional is doing it.

Keep in mind that for alimony, child support, etc, your husband's savings are probably much less relevant than his income (and the difference between his income and your income).  Even if your kids are too told for standard child support, you may want an order that specifies who contributes to costs for their higher education.  Perhaps also requiring him to keep them on his insurance as long as they qualify. 

Is there equity in the house?  If so, you should get half of it.  As another poster mentioned, he may be able to refinance with cash out to achieve this. 

Once you have an idea of what is reasonable to ask for given your state law and specific situation, then I agree that a mediator is the way to go. 

SimpleCycle

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2017, 12:34:07 PM »
I don't think there's really such a thing as an inexpensive divorce, but a DIY divorce can turn out to be very expensive if you wind up giving up assets you are entitled to in order to keep the peace so you don't need a lawyer.  At the very least you should consult a lawyer to find out how divorce works and your state and what you are likely entitled to.  You may be able to go forward with doing the agreement with a mediator and the paperwork on your own, but I would not take hammering out a division of assets lightly.

I am sorry to hear about the end of your marriage - I hope this process is relatively easy.

ringer707

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2017, 02:05:33 PM »
I, too, unfortunately recommend that you get a lawyer. I used to process divorces at a courthouse and it would take some people literally years to get divorced without an attorney because they couldn't figure it out. And that was without anything such as splitting property, retirement accounts, etc. It is an expense, but it is worth it, particularly because it sounds like your husband is unwilling to work with you. Depending on how hard you feel like fighting (AKA ponying up the money) it sounds like you may qualify for spousal support if his income is higher than the your income from your part-time jobs, though there are a number of factors that go into this.

If you have a local law school in your area, you may want to look into whether they have any pro bono programs there. My local law school actually offers a family law clinic where students, under the supervision of a professor, handle your case and can help for free or just the cost of filing the documents.

Good luck, sorry you're going through this.

Reynolds531

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2017, 05:41:44 PM »
Divorce  sucks even at the best of times. I'm just going to leave this here.

Www.marriagebuilders. Com

aikoaiko

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2017, 05:06:19 AM »
    Thank you for all the excellent tips/links.  I think I will see a lawyer about this, since apparently the consult is free.

     The problem with my house now is that he just went ahead and refinanced it (the closing was last week). He said he was taking my name off the mortgage, but then I found at the closing that he not only hadn't done it, but also claimed the problem could be fixed (easily, according to the bank) by filling out a form later.

      I called the bank the next day to find this wasn't true at all, and that another re-fi would be necessary to remove myself.  I could have stopped the current re-fi (you have 2-3 business days to do it), but then it occurred to me A) he wouldn't cooperate with starting the process over because it would raise his interest rate and the bank probably wouldn't give him a mortgage without my income, and B) trying to force it might end with losing the house completely which would mean my kids would get forced out, too.
     
       I should have looked at this all more closely, I know, but I've been working a lot of hours and wouldn't have expected him to do anything like this. At this point he seems to truly believe I'll be walking away from the marriage without any financial support whatsoever. If I had been working F/T all these years I might have been able to do it, but I only came back to the job market recently.

        Well, considering the advice here and from people I've spoken with at home there seems to be no choice but to talk to a lawyer. I don't know enough about the legalities involved, and while I'm willing to make concessions I have to consider that I may never earn more than I do right now so I'll have to plan accordingly.

Thanks again for all your help!

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2017, 05:13:29 AM »
He's already being shady, which means you definitely need a lawyer.

East River Guide

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2017, 07:20:19 AM »

     The problem with my house now is that he just went ahead and refinanced it

Are you saying he did the refi without you?   Didn't you have to sign something?

Hargrove

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #15 on: February 11, 2017, 07:32:19 AM »
Nope nope nope nope nope.

You need a lawyer immediately.

You can instruct your lawyer to be nice, but you want him to be able to defend you when your husband does TOTAL BULLSHIT like refi the house, lie to you about its terms, and take advantage of the state you're currently in, which appears to be "unwilling to defend yourself."

It's noble that you don't want an acrimonious divorce for the kids. It is foolish to expect that divorcing someone who doesn't want a divorce and just committed a monumental financial move that defied your wishes, after having already blown all of his own money, will be smooth sailing. It is a recipe for a quagmire it could take you a decade to get out of if you try to play nice with him without at least having a big stick behind you.

GizmoTX

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #16 on: February 11, 2017, 07:45:33 AM »
I'm sorry but you should have stopped the re-fi. Ultimately one of you has to get off the mortgage or the house will have to be sold. He's using your fear of your sons losing a house to manipulate you. You really shouldn't give this away, & your sons will be leaving soon.

My father re-financed by forging my mother's signature -- that was the last straw & she finally filed for divorce (decades ago). I was married & gone, 2 of my sibs were in college, but 2 were still in grade school. The court awarded the house to my mom along with the debt, but there was little equity; she couldn't afford the payments so she had the effort of selling it but essentially broke even. Because 2 of my sibs were minors & my dad didn't seek any custody, he was ordered to pay child support until each was 18, which he was always late on until my mom petitioned the court to collect it for her.

When a person starts acting badly, they don't stop, because they see no value in doing the right thing.

Blatant

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #17 on: February 11, 2017, 07:52:51 AM »
I was going to suggest a paralegal service. My first marriage ended in amicable divorce and I think the entire process cost us around $800 in Phoenix. Key word "amicable" as we had already agreed how assets would be handled and there were no children.

However, based on actions revealed later in the thread, I concur with others: You need legal representation.

PJ

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #18 on: February 11, 2017, 09:11:08 AM »
Nope nope nope nope nope.

You need a lawyer immediately.

You can instruct your lawyer to be nice, but you want him to be able to defend you when your husband does TOTAL BULLSHIT like refi the house, lie to you about its terms, and take advantage of the state you're currently in, which appears to be "unwilling to defend yourself."

It's noble that you don't want an acrimonious divorce for the kids. It is foolish to expect that divorcing someone who doesn't want a divorce and just committed a monumental financial move that defied your wishes, after having already blown all of his own money, will be smooth sailing. It is a recipe for a quagmire it could take you a decade to get out of if you try to play nice with him without at least having a big stick behind you.

aikoaiko, I agree 100% with Hargrove.  You can instruct the lawyer how much "hardball" you want to play, but someone having someone who knows the ins and outs would be invaluable right now.  There is a difference between being generous, which is what you're aiming for, and letting someone take advantage of you, which is how he's reacting.

SwordGuy

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #19 on: February 11, 2017, 09:15:53 AM »
You definitely need a lawyer.  Sorry.

This won't help you, but for those people reading this who are not yet married, the best way to get a divorce that doesn't cost a lot of money and pain is:

"Don't marry a selfish, unreasonable, thinks of themselves first, overaged child."

The symptoms are often there right from the get go.   Just walk away.  They won't magically get better just because you love them.




K-ice

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #20 on: February 11, 2017, 09:26:34 AM »
I don't understand the refinance process.

Did he just refinance at a better interest rate for the same amount?

Or

Did he refinance & take out more money effectively stealing from you?

You need to find a way to quickly seperate you from any debt he can incur.

Can you talk to him? It sounds like he is having a hard time accepting the divorce.
But if you can have a discussion try to get a feel of how he wants to split things.
Don't agree to anything but you need to know where he stands as a starting point for mediation.


If you don't want child support or alimony it should be easier.
Take your assets, split them & walk away.

Have you talked to him about splitting the pension?
I have a feeling he is not going to agree to that.


Here are my assumptions:
So he wants the house (but maybe can't afford it alone), does not want to split pension, will not pay CS or alimony.


Also it sounds like you can't just support yourself & walk away.

I'm very sorry for your situation but you do need legal advice.



FrugalZony

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #21 on: February 11, 2017, 09:40:02 AM »
"Don't marry a selfish, unreasonable, thinks of themselves first, overaged child."

The symptoms are often there right from the get go.   Just walk away.  They won't magically get better just because you love them.
Oh my, where were you 25 years ago?


@aikoaiko
as someone who has recently gone through a divorce (mostly diy with having a lawyer only double check paperwork to make sure things are filled in correctly and put in correct legaleese) for relatively low cost (I paid for EVERYTHING! all the fees etc. Luckily the legal advise was covered by a work benefit I had).
....I still advise you to get a lawyer ASAP as others have said.

In order to diy you BOTH have to be very agreeable and he already screwed you with the refinance BS before you even started.
Get a lawyer ASAP!!!
You can still instruct them to be friendly, but you have to protect yourself and your financial future from a major disaster.

aikoaiko

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #22 on: February 11, 2017, 08:28:01 PM »
Hi,

     Yes, I will definitely see a lawyer.  And yes, I could have stopped the re-fi once I found I couldn't take my name off, but doing so wouldn't have changed the status because it would have reverted back to the old mortgage which was still in both our names. In order to get my name off he would have to refinance it again, but when I told him that he refused.  The basic problem (I think) is that he can't GET a re-fi without my income, and he needs the lower payments now.

      But anyway, I know it's a rotten situation and it's possible I shouldn't have married him either, but there isn't much I can do about that now. I had hoped to keep the house for the family, but if I can't we'll have to live with it. I will work it out one way or another, I just wanted to exhaust my options first so the kids would know I didn't give up and I did what I could to hold it for them.

Thanks again for the input.

GizmoTX

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #23 on: February 12, 2017, 04:15:29 AM »
I doubt that kids think that holding the house is their highest priority in a divorce. Sure, most are concerned about staying in their same school, but that can be managed without the house, & it's very short term in your case. As for giving up, kids just want the conflict to end. Your husband likely isn't the person you married -- I certainly saw this with my parents. The best thing to do for your kids is to get yourself in a better financial & mental situation for the rest of your life, so you won't need their help later.

Another Reader

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #24 on: February 12, 2017, 06:22:03 AM »
I'm confused.  You just found out about the refi?  How could he have used your income and name to refinance the property without your knowledge or cooperation?  You signed the paperwork or he committed fraud in some way.  If you signed that paperwork, knowing you were going to divorce, that will come back to haunt you.  You need a knowledgeable divorce attorney today.  Likely he will blow the proceeds or hide the money from you in some way.  You will be on the hook when the assets and liabilities are divided for half of that mortgage and you will receive none of the benefits.  You just gifted him a big chunk of equity in the house.

If he did an 80 percent loan to value cash out refinance using your income, he will likely not be able to refinance on his own.  For your protection and to protect the future financial wellbeing of your children, the house will likely have to be sold.  Agreeing to that refinance will likely force the sale.

Get a good divorce attorney today.  Let the attorney speak for you.

marion10

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #25 on: February 12, 2017, 07:32:53 AM »
Even if you do not want child support or alimony, you should have something in the agreement about college expenses for your kids.

soccerluvof4

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #26 on: February 12, 2017, 10:08:31 AM »
another thing is your savings he might be allowed 50% of that unless he signs off on it. With what he's doing you need a lawyer.

JLee

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #27 on: February 12, 2017, 10:38:25 AM »
       Thanks so much for all the great advice.  I guess I'll look into a lawyer, though I'm willing to leave him with a little more in order to keep peace in the family and make it easier on my kids. I'll have to think about all the advice and decide exactly what to do. Thanks so much for the help!

I understand wanting to keep peace, but don't let yourself get screwed.  My parents were divorced about 10 years ago- one party had an attorney and the other did not. The divorce itself was pretty smooth but not all that fair.

xfactor9600

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #28 on: February 12, 2017, 01:12:27 PM »
Divorce attorney here. I have many clients that spend far more with me when I'm hired to fix what they did wrong in a divorce they did themselves. It's much cheaper to have it done correctly the first time.


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FrugalZony

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Re: Advice on Inexpensive Divorces
« Reply #29 on: February 12, 2017, 01:45:25 PM »
....

      But anyway, I know it's a rotten situation and it's possible I shouldn't have married him either, but there isn't much I can do about that now. I had hoped to keep the house for the family, but if I can't we'll have to live with it. I will work it out one way or another, I just wanted to exhaust my options first so the kids would know I didn't give up and I did what I could to hold it for them.

Thanks again for the input.
I very much understand your interest in trying to keep things civil and amical.
But don't let him use the kids or your "bad conscience" (as in you are the one who is leaving) to manipulate you.
I know it is easier said than done. Been there done that.

Sending you virtual hugs and my very best wishes!
I know this sucks big time and it's not easy.
I hope things will work out for you.