I waved goodbye to my youngest child after helping him to get on the school bus and headed back into the suburban home that we had purchased just one year before.
This time we had relocated for my husband’s corporate marketing position-very far across the country from any of my family and friends. Although we had relocated for his job several times already, we had planned that this home would be our last since we had moved to be close to his corporate headquarters in Ohio.
Less than 5 minutes later I heard a knock on the door and opened it to see a man with some folded papers in his hand. He asked me to confirm my name and then handed them to me.
As a sat down to read them, my eyes locked on to the word INCOMPATIBILITY and the purple ink from the time/date stamp across the petition for divorce.
Stunned, I sat there holding my breath and it only got worse when I saw the extra legal papers attached with the divorce petition. These papers contained a motion signed by a judge for a financial restraining order against me that was in effect immediately.
This financial restraining order had many restrictions which included:
- Using joint credit cards or applying for credit using my spouse’s name and income
- Changing or closing bank accounts
- Selling, transferring, or borrowing against property
- Modifying beneficiaries on insurance policies
- Destroying or hiding assets
“How is this even possible?” I said to myself as I felt a gut punch to my stomach, the first of many to come as I realized I had no credit cards in my name only after 15 years of marriage together.
How could I be immediately limited to accessing our finances without any prior notice?
How would I be able to pay for a divorce attorney now?
As a stay-at-home mom with three kids and a husband who travelled every week for business and relocated our family frequently for his job, I relied completely on his salary for our household income and carefully paid our bills each month so that they wouldn’t be late.
Although I had found out about his affair with a single co-worker several months before, he hadn’t told me that he was going to file for divorce or made any moves to limit my access to the family finances. After several weeks when he refused to end his affair, I had asked him to move out to think things through.
He took a laundry basket and filled it with some clothes and left the house without an argument.
My hands were shaking hard as I dialed his work number and demanded that he come home and explain why he’d had me served with divorce papers and the financial restraining order. He nonchalantly came through the kitchen and came into the den where I saw sobbing with the papers in front of me.
“Have you thought this all through?”
“How could you do this to our kids?”
“We just bought this house, we can’t sell it now!”
He sat there like a robot- calming nodding his head up and down, saying in his flat monotone that this was definitely what he wanted and then he abruptly got up left to go back to work.
I fled the house and spent the afternoon with a neighbor, not wanting to go home at all but knowing
I needed to go home that night to care for our three children.
As I headed back into our home, I was surprised to find out that my husband had arrived home early. He took me aside and held me close to him. He assured me that he was making the biggest mistake of his life and he really didn’t want a divorce.
The next day I listened in as he called his divorce attorney and insisted that the divorce petition and restraining order be cancelled right away. I felt angry as I heard his divorce attorney recommend that he just put it all ‘on hold’ rather than completely cancel it.
As I heard him insist that everything should be dismissed right away, I thought again about how the financial security I’d trusted in for 15 years had suddenly blown wide open.
I had been blindsided to find out that since I didn’t have any credit cards or bank accounts in my name only, I had put myself at substantial risk and given him a significant financial advantage right away for a divorce that I didn’t even want.