A few years ago (maybe 25 or 30), Paul Simon had a song called “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover”. It was kind of a light-hearted look at a serious situation that faces lots of people every year. Certainly, the way the parties split up has a big impact on how a divorce is handled. Will it be respectful and fairly friendly, or will it be mean and spiteful, leading to retaliation and escalating animosity?
Many postings have been written on how you should or can notify your spouse about the impending dissolution. There are many good, respectful, and/or appropriate ways to do so. Just to be sure that you know what not to do, please note the following list of bad ideas. 1. Clean out the house. Letting your spouse come home to an empty house certainly conveys information about your intentions and your attitude about your spouse. It also guarantees, like the Ground Hog not seeing his shadow, that you will have at least 6 weeks of rough weather.
2. Disappear with the kids. Similar to the above approach, this means of notification tends to destroy the hope of cooperation with your spouse about the kids. Judges may get mad, too.
3. Move out of state. And take the kids and furniture. This works if you really want to escalate the fighting. It also guarantees that attorneys will be financially rewarded for your efforts. There will be major fighting and you will probably be ordered to return.
4. Clean out the bank accounts. This may provide some immediate enjoyment and satisfaction, but usually just slows down the fighting until your spouse finds alternate sources of funds. Courts usually don't like this approach and will often order you to return at least some of the funds. Your spouse will also be pretty ticked off. Having said all of that, it is still important that you have an appropriate share of the community funds, so make sure you have some funds that you alone control.
5. Pick the worst time and place to maximize the embarrassment. Serve your spouse: at work; at a wedding or other family gathering; a happy occasion, like a birthday party; when your spouse is with his or her boss; or when your spouse is with friends. Your spouse is sure to return the favor in some way. Done right, this could cost your spouse his or her job, which would be great fun initially, but which also could cause financial hardship for you as well when important bills are not paid.
There may be important reasons for actually using one or more of the techniques. Your spouse may be hiding. You may need to hide for safety reasons. You may need to control the finances or protect property. Whatever reasons you have, be sure to thoroughly discuss the situation and make a decision with your attorney's help.
You and Paul Simon could probably find 50 creative ways to leave your spouse, but you need to think through the consequences beyond the immediate satisfaction and enjoyment. There might be other ways to split that won't end up costing you so much. You should talk with your lawyer about the best way to notify your spouse. The choice of notice should help, rather than hinder, your efforts to achieve the most important underlying goals in your divorce. Send me a comment if you care to share some good or bad experiences in notifying a spouse or if you disagree with some of this post.