One day you’re sitting across the breakfast table sharing the paper, discussing what to do about dinner, and smiling at your kids.
And, let’s say, that’s been going on for a decade or two.
The next day, you’re emptying the house while your husband’s at work, cleaning out every scrap, including his clothes.
And the dog.
How does this happen?
What trips the switch?
Can it happen to me?
These are the questions that sparked our documentary, Divorce Wars.
Haven’t we all looked at a couple clawing each other’s eyes out and wondered how it came to that? We discovered the new rules of divorce that everyone should know before they even think about getting married.
Rule #1: Cheating doesn’t matter. With "no fault" divorce the law in all 50 states, the fact that your husband has slept with half of his office has no bearing on how your assets will be divided. In fact, you can alienate the judge by bringing it up and wasting the court’s time!
Rule #2: You CAN afford to get divorced. Even if your spouse is the one in control of the purse strings and has cut off your credit cards, there are businesses, like Balance Point Funding, that will give you fight money in exchange for a percent of the winnings. They’ll pay for the investigators, lawyers, and even your monthly expenses if they think you have a chance of winning.
Rule #3: It’s never over. We met a woman who was convinced her husband was hiding assets. Once she settled, her lawyers told her there was no second bite at the apple. But she spent 15 years setting up a war room in her house, investigating her husband’s finances. Madness? Only if you think getting $15 million is insane. That’s why famed divorce attorney, Raoul Felder, says an angry spouse is more lethal than the IRS, because the spurned spouse hates you. The IRS doesn’t actually hate you.
Rule #4: You really can’t hide your assets. Pretty much every transaction leaves some kind of electronic track. Just ask Ms. Fifteen Million Bucks. If there’s a large withdrawal from your bank account, even for cash, the other side’s forensic accountant will ask you where that money went. If you can’t explain it, it’s simply deducted from your side. The same goes for the sale of any asset. And the forensic accountant will charge you a steep hourly rate to sort through the traffic of funds, so you’ll pay for it twice. Lawyers I spoke to warn their clients, it’s not worth it.
Rule #5: Get a prenup. I know it’s not romantic, and it’s a tough one to end on. But everyone we interviewed agreed that it’s the only way to avoid becoming one of those couples who’s fighting over the dog. Why not map out an emergency exit plan while you’re still on speaking terms? You’re bound to treat each other better while you’re still in love. Of course I recently mentioned the idea of a nice clean agreement to my husband of twelve years, and he looked at me sideways, like perhaps I had something more to share. I don’t, so I dropped it.