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A Man’s Guide to a Civilized Divorce – Managing Your Finances

Needless battles over money derail more divorces in the early stages than any other issue. Money is a source of power, so to be without money makes us feel powerless. At this point in your divorce, you want to avoid any behavior that will frighten your wife about money. Here are some simple rules.

1. Make no unilateral change in any bank or securities account. Well-meaning but ignorant advisers and some overzealous lawyers may counsel you to raid the accounts and move the money to new accounts in your name only. The usual rationale is that if you don’t strike first, your wife will, and then she will have a huge advantage.

And it is true that were she to sequester the money she would enjoy a slight bargaining advantage in the war that would follow. But it would also not be difficult to obtain a court order freezing the money so that neither of you could get at it without the consent of the other. But that is irrelevant because your objective here is trust, and trust cannot be achieved without some vulnerability and risk.

2. If there is some compelling reason that you have to make a withdrawal, such as payment of taxes, tell your wife first and secure her consent. Do not assume that she trusts you, and control your indignation if she asks for safeguards that she had not sought in the past.

3. Do not cancel your wife’s credit cards or in any way take unilateral measures to control her spending. If you think that her spending is a problem, take the question up with your counselor or mediator.

It is often necessary to negotiate temporary support or money management arrangements. By insisting on a bilateral agreement, you establish the premise that you and your wife can work out the details in negotiation and that power struggles through lawyers are unnecessary.

Copyright © 2004 Sam Margulies, Ph.D., J.D.
Excerpted by permission from A Man’s Guide to a Civilized Divorce: How to Divorce with Grace, a Little Class, and a Lot of Common Sense.

Sam Margulies, Ph.D., J.D., has been one of the leaders in the field of mediation for 25 years. An early pioneer in mediation, Margulies was instrumental in helping to define the field. He has taught mediation for 20 years, has made innumerable presentations throughout the country, and has published extensively. His first book, Getting Divorced Without Ruining Your Life, was one of the earliest texts that taught that divorce can be done decently and without the traditional adversarial process.

Margulies lives and practices mediation in both Greensboro, North Carolina, and Montclair, New Jersey. When not mediating, teaching, or writing, he can often be found driving his tractor on his North Carolina farm.