How to leave your wife
If your marriage is crumbling, you need to pay attention to money matters -- or suffer harsh consequences. Here's what to do, men.
Several weeks ago I wrote a column called "How to leave your husband."
It did not say "Leave your husband now," "Get divorced immediately" or even "Wash that man right out of your hair." It was about preparing yourself financially when your marriage is already ending.
Yet judging by the letters and message board posts that poured in, you would think that I had launched a campaign to corrupt women by showing them how to destroy a marriage in 45 seconds or less.
Here's a typical letter, from an angry reader named Mike:
"Women who think and act like this DESERVE to be divorced and hopefully left with nothing. As for the author of this article, what gives you the right to preach that it is OK for a wife to STEAL from her husband because she is not happy! You are a pathetic excuse for a woman."
Most of the letters were from men. Many were morally outraged. And most said: Why don't you write about how to leave your wife without going broke?
So I called divorce lawyer Gayle Rosenwald Smith, the author of Divorce and Money: Everything You Need to Know. The advice she would give men facing divorce, she says, is pretty much what she would tell women.
Although many of the men who wrote in swore that women get the upper hand in divorce court, Smith would argue that point, based on decades of practicing family law in Philadelphia.
"It's more an individual thing than it is about men getting treated one way or women another," she says.
Laws, your personal circumstances, the lawyers or mediators involved in the case and, perhaps especially, a judge may all determine how equitable the terms of a divorce are.
"If you choose to go before a judge, you are subject to the biases of that judge, and they cut both ways," Smith says.
Smith also took issue with the motive behind my initial article, which stemmed from my conviction that women need a bigger push to take the reins of their finances. "I see just as many men who don't want to deal with these issues," she says.
* Talk back: Can you afford a divorce?
Just the facts
Many readers didn't like that I advised women to set aside money in a savings account and keep copies of important documents. Not only was I breaking up marriages, I was turning women into "money-grubbing whores," as one reader wrote.
As it turns out, this is exactly what men must do as well, Smith says. In an ideal situation, both spouses would know all the financial details of their marriage. "The trouble is, one party usually doesn't," Smith says.
Whether that person is a man or a woman doesn't matter, Smith says. When your marriage is crumbling, "You have to get up to speed, figure out the assets, the liabilities, and when you get all your economic information in hand, consult a lawyer and find out what your rights and responsibilities are going to cost."
Don't treat your lawyer as a psychiatrist, she adds. Just get the facts.
MSN.ca Money's editorial goal is to provide a forum for personal finance and investment ideas. Our articles, columns, message board posts and other features should not be construed as investment advice, nor does their appearance imply an endorsement by Microsoft of any specific security or trading strategy. An investor's best course of action must be based on individual circumstances.
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