Recently a client copied me on an email she had sent to her husband asking the husband to stop opening envelopes addressed solely to her, taking checks from the mail payable to her, endorsing them and depositing them in their account. Their divorce had been filed more than 9 months ago.
Husband, who did not want the divorce, responded by reminding wife that this was the way they had ALWAYS handled their finances. In the past, wife who was a very busy executive, had resisted dealing with their finances. He went on to belittle her by reminding her of the filing process that he had always used, where records were stored and suggesting that she wasn’t competent to manage their finances, so she should continue to leave them to him.
I was struck by the futility of the exchange.
Divorce is always hard, particularly for the party who is being left. It is also difficult for the one who is leaving. Though there are a lot of divorce books, every case is unique and requires each party to be sensitive to the needs of the other to build a relationship where both parties can work on common issues in the future. Resisting the inevitable change that comes with divorce is an ineffective way to handle the situation. The parties will grow further apart and want more privacy. The trust that once permitted one spouse to endorse joint checks or checks payable to the other spouse without making the spouse to whom the checks were payable part of the process, no longer exists.
This is a difficult time for the parties. Those couples who have children or complex financial situations will need to work together in the future and show each other respect. To make this transition, one party must notify the other when the process by which they wish to handle their affairs needs to change. The other party needs to listen and accept the wishes of their spouse. Perhaps the parties need to negotiate the time-line and the steps that must be taken to accomplish the greater separation between them. The spouse who is being asked to change needs to voice his/her concerns about such changes, such as fear that there won’t be enough money available to run the household, buy things for the children, etc.
The parties need to understand these changes must be made. They can only be made when they accept requests for change and work together to devise a plan to accomplish this. Some people will need the help of their attorneys. A mediator can also help them reason through the needed changes, help them develop a plan and a time line for accomplishing the changes.
Then they will both feel as though they had some input into determining their future, which will happen, with or without the cooperation of one or both spouses.