How to prepare for divorce

Divorce may not be the best of situations, but where necessary, it pays to be ready for what you

It is good to be decisive, she says, but do not speak about your intentions until you are actually ready to start the divorce and you have a plan. Once you decide, proceed immediately. Waiting will only give a dishonest spouse time to rip you off.

It would be nice if all marriages lasted as long as both spouses lived, but reality is a little disappointing. Even some well-matched marriages fail. When a marriage is rundown, when divorce is imminent, you will know it. This should be good news because then you can prepare for it.

Preparing for divorce may not make you hurt less from the breakdown of your marriage, but it will leave you better prepared for life thereafter. And top on the list – in terms of preparation – is finances.

“Think of the long-term – how you will settle bills after the divorce and not just how you will afford the lawyer,” advises Nairobi lawyer Kennedy Osoro. “If you had joint bank accounts, open accounts that are only in your name. It’s also important to adjust your will accordingly to exclude your ex.”

From his experiences mitigating divorce cases, it is important to separate marital property from property you own. Inheritance or gifts given to you during marriage for instance, should be treated as individual property.

Sometimes, the mistakes we make before a divorce have nothing to do with money. Like most women, when she found out that her marriage was no longer working, 34-year-old Purity Kamau wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. So she told her husband of seven years that she wanted a divorce.

HAVE A PLAN

Her decision seems logical. However, if you are married to a cunning man, he can take advantage of the early warning. When Purity first spoke about the divorce, she had no plan or timeline. Little did she know that the time lapse between telling her husband her wishes and actually getting the divorce would work against her.

Every day for the weeks following the talk, her husband tried to win her back. “At least that is how it seemed. The truth, however, was that he was hoodwinking me while he milked our accounts and sold off properties. When we got round to actually talking about divorce, there was little left to share. I am 34 but one would think I am just starting out,” she says.

It is good to be decisive, she says, but do not speak about your intentions until you are actually ready to start the divorce and you have a plan. Once you decide, proceed immediately. Waiting will only give a dishonest spouse time to rip you off.

The days leading up to the end of Mueni’s* five year marriage was a tug of war of sorts – her wanting out and him clinging onto her.

“He’d had a child with another woman while we were still married. That hurt very much. It wasn’t something I could forgive,” she recalls the reason their relationship fell apart.

This pain made it easier for her to move on. By the time she filed the paperwork, she was already seeing someone else. “I had taken care of the financial side of it. I had tracked all the assets and made sure my name was on most of our investments. Then I made a big mistake. I wanted to start over badly so I fell pregnant with my new love,” she says.

Thinking this would get her ex off her back, he instead started a fight over the paternity of the new baby, never mind that the two were not having sexual relations. This slowed the divorce and by the time the baby was born and a DNA test carried out, her new relationship was injured.

REMEMBER TO PARENT

“The tests confirmed that the baby was my lover’s but he couldn’t understand why my ex was claiming it if we weren’t intimate. It’s been very rocky.” If she could do it all over again, 38-year-old Mueni says that she would take time to tie up all the loose ends before moving on.

Both these women made unique but costly mistakes. What they both agree on is that divorce is a battle that one needs to be prepared for emotionally. “If you are a parent, your children will still need to be mothered no matter what you are feeling. You should never forget that,” says Purity, who is a mother of two.

Psychotherapist Ida Too terms divorce as a long winding journey. As you prepare yourself, also prepare your children for it. “Make sure that the children understand that the family dynamics will change. You should however maintain that the two of you will remain the children’s parents and that the love you feel for them will not waver. It’s important that they hear this every step of the way.”

Written by JOAN THATIAH for DailyNation.co.ke

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