What I can’t tell you because I’m not a lawyer, but CAN tell you because I am a journalist: a loophole in my own life.
So many images flash through my mind at night when I am trying to fall asleep. A lawyer that I know and respect looking at me with admiration and saying, “You should go to law school.” Years of criminal justice courses during my undergrad years as I learned about the US Legal System and how I might one day work within it. The look of fear on my mother’s face as I rushed her and my children into my car and fled when I l was leaving my marriage.
All of those images, all of those moments add up to something: starting my life over, and dedicating it to helping others not become me. Not me as I sit here today, but the me that I have been for the past four years. And so another image surfaces, the one of me on my first day of divorce coaching classes: “You are not a lawyer,” they tell us, “and we will teach you why this is important.”
I am not a lawyer, this is true, and it became more critical for me to recognize, respect, and remember as each day went by. Why? Because it is illegal to give legal advice unless you are a lawyer. It’s a law put in place to protect innocent people from getting bad advice from those who are not educated to give it. After all, legal advice is often life-changing.
And now, even more images: arriving at the beach with my children and my mother and finding out that my husband had hired a divorce attorney while I was driving those three hours. And then: I sit on the edge of the bed and call a family law attorney that a friend recommends. I beg her over the phone to take my case. She asks me one question that forever changes my life, “Do you have access to money?”
What do I do as a journalist when I have important news that needs to be shared with you? What if it is the very same information that as a Certified Divorce Coach I should not be telling you because I am not a lawyer? This is the difficult situation that I find myself in and one that has kept me up many nights lately. That is until last night, as images were flashing through my mind and I was trying to fall asleep. One formed in my mind that made everything clear: I found a loophole in my own life that I could fit through and help you without hurting anyone.
So now I step out as a CDC Certified Divorce Coach® for just a moment and step back into the world of journalism so I can report to you what Anne Marie Jackson, a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and Family Law Attorney at Ain & Bank in Washington, DC, told me about having access to money when preparing to leave your marriage. But first she gives a word of caution that could one day change your life. You want to do this the right way because if you don’t it is, “often viewed as provocative and can set an inflammatory tone to the whole proceeding.”
With that being said, there are 3 key things you need to know and this is what Anne Marie, advises:
1. If the client has a serious concern about having access to funds then I advise them to take half the account and move the money into an account in his or her sole name and inform their spouse of what they have done. In setting up a separate account, use a different bank – it is too easy for mistakes to be made if you are at the same bank - accounts can be linked or statements misdirected.
2. I suggest clients get a copy of their credit report and eliminate any credit accounts that are not being used. They should not, however, start a divorce by leaving their spouse without any credit. The spouse who does not have significant income or credit should start applying and establishing their own credit, which may mean establishing some store credit cards or the like.
3. If you have a claim related to non-marital or separate property, take all the documents that support that claim with you. Copy your three most recent tax returns and all the documents that support the assets and liabilities that you and your spouse have, including life insurance policies. If there are bills that are in your name, make a copy so you can be sure that it gets paid now and in the future. Finally, if there are any documents or photos that are irreplaceable bring them with you.
There are some nights that I still can’t go to sleep because images keep flashing through my mind. And then there are those mornings when I wake up and know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. This is one of those days. Now, please excuse me while I step back through the loophole and continue on with my work as a Certified Divorce Coach. A Certified Divorce Coach with a copy of this article printed and ready to hand out to each and every one of her clients.