How can I look after me when I've wrapped up all I have with HER?
July 19, 2009 12:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm almost 30. I'm unemployed. I may or may not be able to attend college this year. I am halfway across the country from my friends and family, can't move in with my parents, don't have a license, and I am going to have to divorce my wife of four years. Where do I start? (Warning: Long)

I live in Texas in the DFW area. My wife is on permanent disability. My work experience is in web design and graphic design, but I'm completely self-taught. Lack of a degree has held me back from some better paying jobs. I've applied and been approved for "social economic circumstances" at this college, they just have to get it processed at the board of Education-- it's very likely that I'll be covered for the cost of tuition but I have no idea if I'll now receive a grant or be allowed to take out enough in loans to cover living expenses for a year.

After years of trying, joint thereaphy, talking , begging, pleading, it's becoming clear that we're just not right for each other. Close friends have repeatedly pointed out I'm in an emoptionally toxicc situation, and I'm finally frustrated enough that as much as I love my wife and as afraid as I am of losing what little I have left, we are going to have to get a divorce.

We have a joint checking account. Were are living on a fixed income right now-- her on disability and myself on unemployment benefits while I look for work. Our saving have been wiped out by both economic hardship and ,medical bills on her end last year. We share a house with two other adults (also both an disability), and said adult's step children. I moved to TX 4 years ago to be with my wife. Her mother passed away two years ago, and aside from her brother, she doesn't keep in touch much with her family. The other housemates are very close with her. I have no family here other than my brother in law.

I don't have much to my name that's JUST mine. I have an ikea sofa-bed, a desktop computer system and what would work out to be several garbage bags of clothes. I have a newly-married friend of mine back where I come from NJ that I've known since high school that has offered me crash space in his basement till I can get on my feet, if need be, though I'd have to somehow move myself and my stuff UP there first.

There is a foreclosure on my credit rating from 4 years ago when we went upside down on the house we got right after we married and I was laid off/

I am sure that while we'd both want a divorce (she's been the one to suggest a divorce several times in our rocky relationship), it may be contentious. I have no money for a lawyer, and I know I'm going to be stuck living here in the house till we ca n afford the dicorce. Asking for a divorce is going to be painful enough. It's going to be painful even when it's something we both want. And even though we're sleeping in seperate rooms, we're by neccessity going to see each other a lot just in day to day activities in the house.

How can I start with this divorce? What checklist do I need to do (I've done my free credit check already)? How do I approach a lawyer with no money? And how can I help ME survive when I've wrapped up everything around her?

Followup questions to
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Texas Divorce guidelines here. Abandonment is grounds, and Texas is a no-fault divorce state. Get a license, find a job (any job), move out and you're 80% there.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:45 PM on July 19, 2009

You can separate without getting divorced, and laws will vary, but living separately for x amount of time is often grounds for a no-contest easy divorce.
I'd recommend doing that in your case; neither of you require the added financial burden of a lawyer right now, and it will make the actual divorce simpler later.

Can you get some sort of educational financial aid in your friend's area? Taking up his offer to stay in his basement and using that time to get your own head and affairs in order while taking the necessary classes might work out well for you.
posted by Billegible at 12:54 PM on July 19, 2009

I can't help on relationship, but wise advice that I can pass on is that in times when finding a job is hard there is no better place to be than in school. It fills the unemployment void in your resume and you'll have the skills to get a job when you're done and people are hiring again.
posted by furtive at 1:06 PM on July 19, 2009

I got a divorce in Texas. I believe it cost me between $300 and $500. I went to a cheap lawyer, he filled in a form with my information, and he filed it. As simple as our divorce was, I'm pretty sure I could've done it by myself with one of those forms you can buy at Office Depot.

I had no children and we had little in the way of belongings besides a car we'd bought. I basically took my clothes and books, and left everything else, including the car, with him. He agreed with this, so there was no problems with how we were going to divide things.

Here's what I needed to give the lawyer:
- Name, address, and SSN for both of us.
- VIN for our cars.
- Bank account and credit card numbers, and the banks who held those accounts (the name of the bank, the name of the credit card people).
- Balances of each account (bank and credit).
- My reason for divorce (mine was "irreconcilable differences")

Something I learned:
Credit cards are held jointly and severally. This means, you are both responsible for the debt. So, if one doesn't pay, they will go to the other person. My ex learned this before I did, and went on a huge (for us) spending spree, as he was convinced that I'd have to pay at least half of what he bought. When I learned this, I did the following within a few hours:
1. Closed all accounts (credit card, checking account, electric bill, everything).
2. Removed about $200 from the checking account, and had the rest drawn up on a bank check.
3. Called him immediately to let him know. I didn't want to hurt him, but I wanted to protect myself. The electric, phone, etc. companies were giving several days before shutting everything off, and I wanted him to have time to start new accounts in his own name.
4. Gave him the check which was everything in the checking account minus the $200 I took for myself to keep afloat.

My ex decided later that he did not want to sign the divorce. This made it drag out, but it did not cost more or have any other negative consequence. The lawyer followed these steps:
1. Mailed the papers to his apartment. It was ignored.
2. Mailed the papers to his apartment, with signature required. It was ignored.
3. Had papers served at his place of employment.
4. We waited for a court date (at that time, it took almost a year to get a court date; hopefully this has changed).
5. I showed up on the court date and signed some papers. The ex did not show, but this did not matter.
posted by Houstonian at 1:15 PM on July 19, 2009 [6 favorites]

On the personal side, I'd say that I was somewhat like you in that I'd not finished my degree yet and felt completely at a loss about how to go about my life without him. I loved him, but we were not going to be able to make our marriage work.

What I did on that front was two things:

1. Always remember that I loved him. Maybe I didn't always like him, but I did love him. Remembering that made me want to make sure that I was always being extremely fair with him. I didn't argue about knick-knacks or who owned the cheap furniture, the sweatshirt we shared, the dishes we'd been given as a wedding gift. It really doesn't matter in the long run. I also refused to get into it with his family; he told them, told them his side of it, and that was fine. They called, but I referred them back to him. There's no point in trying to get people to take a "side."

2. I made a dream list of goals. What would I do? I'd go back to school, I'd have a great job, I'd have a little apartment of my own. I broke those down into steps. I put those steps on a calendar. And when I felt despair, I'd look back on those goals, those next steps. It worked, amazingly well.
posted by Houstonian at 1:35 PM on July 19, 2009 [9 favorites]

I can't help on relationship, but wise advice that I can pass on is that in times when finding a job is hard there is no better place to be than in school. It fills the unemployment void in your resume and you'll have the skills to get a job when you're done and people are hiring again.

Yes. What you need, my friend, is a cold reboot. Cut the power and start over.

For practical advice, if it were me, I'd print Houstonian's advice and carry it around in my wallet like a checklist.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:52 PM on July 19, 2009

It is a very negative atmosphere for the healthy person to be surrounded by people who "can't" work. That type of welfare mentality is very pervasive and you should remove yourself from it.

It is normal to have see-saw type emotions about splitting up. One minute you might feel you love her, another you hate her. The old Dear Abby type question that is most helpful is: Are you better off with or without her? If you look back on your marriage and see it as a 75%-80% DRAIN just follow Houstanian's excellent advice and try not to feel quilty about it. Living with a bunch of disabled people has you thinking from a position of LACK. You're young and healthy. Don't get dragged down by people who "can't" work*. Water seeks it's own level. You need to be around people who enjoy working and want to work!

*Many disabled people do work. Scores of them.

Good Luck.
posted by naplesyellow at 2:14 PM on July 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've been in a bad situation, though not as bad as yours.

The main thing to do is to get away from the situation at hand. Leave some of the clothes and bed behind if you need to.

Most states will allow you to file for divorce even if you don't live in that state.

Good luck!
posted by reenum at 2:53 PM on July 19, 2009

Just thought I'd comment a bit on the degree issue. I'm a programmer. I did not finish college, nor did many of the people that I interact with on a daily basis. This has never stopped us from getting good work, and in fact, many people don't even ask (or care) about a degree. CS programs are garbage and barely teach anything useful. So not going through one doesn't really matter. (I understand that graphic design might be different, but both programming and design are very creative endeavors that require practice, skill, and a bit of theory. College only teaches you the theory; the rest is up to you.)

Lack of a degree may be an automatic "no hire" at some places, but it is certainly not the norm, at least in my experience. If you are really ambitious and start your own consulting company, you can guarantee that the degree issue will never come up again.

It really comes down to having a portfolio of work and having people know you. Having a blog and talking about things you do is a great way to get people to know you, and so is attending (and speaking at) conferences. If you market your self a bit, people will get to know you, and will be happy to give you work; either contracting or a "real job".

Also, if you want to go to school, you should. There is nothing wrong with having a degree :)
posted by jrockway at 8:22 PM on July 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

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