Separation and divorce means that you no longer have a life partner, not that you no longer have a life. When I was confronted with the fact that he had left me for another woman, I remember angrily texting to him, "She has stolen my life." I now realise that she gave me back my life by removing him from it.
In the early days, after he first left, I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to manage financially. On paper, it looked bad - he brought in about $1000 a week after tax and child support to his first wife were paid. But in reality the only money that he actually contributed to our joint financial situation was the mortgage payment which I had arranged to come out of his pay before he could spend it. I am eternally grateful to my mother for leaving enough money to me, in her Will, to pay off the mortgage which I did after he agreed to sign the house over to me. It is common for abandoning husbands to tell anyone who will listen, "I gave her the house," but what they don't tell people is they also gave her a hefty mortgage. So with no mortgage, theoretically, separated me should be in a financially similar situation to married me. Well I'm not - I'm better off!
I no longer have that constant anxiety in the bottom of my stomach, wondering how I'm going to pay the electricity bill, while he had no qualms spending hundreds of dollars a week on alcohol and cigarettes. I no longer have to try to make minimum payments on credit card debt that he ran up as fast as I paid them off. I no longer have to get pay day loans to buy food or pay his child support.
Before he left, when I still believed all his lies and thought that he was committed to our marriage, I paid off his credit card debt and convinced him to cancel the cards. It is interesting that last week I was contacted by a credit card company who were under the impression that he lived at my address. It appears that since he has left me, he has managed to run up an impressive amount of debt again and seems to be avoiding requests for payment. Like I said, the woman that he left me for, gave me my life back!
I realise that other abandonees will have settlements of property and other assets as part of their divorce, others will have nothing and will have to start from scratch, some will be struggling with debt that was left behind by the abandoning spouse. Whatever your financial situation, taking charge of your budget is an empowering step, which helps immensely in reclaiming your life.
Planning a budget
There is a great Australian government website called MoneySmart with all sorts of financial information, calculators and apps. I used the Budget Planner on this website to help me work out what my expenditure was. If you pay your bills with Internet banking, it is easy to go back through your online banking history and see what you have paid, to who and when.
How to never get another bill
I worked out how much I was paying on insurance, utilities, car registration, all those regular monthly or quarterly bills, and then I added up how much the total amount was on a weekly basis. Every week when I get paid, I have a transfer set up to an account used just to pay direct debits. All my regular bills come out of this account by direct debit, and there is always enough money in the account to pay for them. I have the electricity, gas and water taken out weekly, the car registration and insurances taken out monthly and the council rates comes out quarterly. I never receive a bill, but they are always paid!
Make sure you are not paying any of his bills
His mobile phone bill was being direct debited from my account and I removed him from my health insurance. When I went into the health insurance company they said they couldn't do anything because he was the account holder, but when I rang them I was able to create a new account without him on it. The mobile phone was a bit harder to do because again it was in his name, but I managed to get him to sign the required paperwork.
Make sure you have accounts with no fees and charges. There are a number of online banks and at least one of the major shopfront banks, in Australia, that have fee free accounts. Type 'fee free accounts' into Google to research the options.
Also make sure you have a savings account - even if you only put $10 or $20 per week into it, and increase the amount as you can afford it. There are a number of savings account which reward you with higher interest, if you make a minimum deposit or make no withdrawals. Type 'high interest savings account' into Google to see what is available. You never know when you are going to have an unforeseen expense and once you get a decent float for emergencies, you can also use the account for more pleasant reasons, like holidays.
Only have a credit card if you are strong willed enough to use it for absolute emergencies, like the hot water service dying. Have a credit limit of say $3000 which is manageable on an average wage and don't succumb to any of the offers of increasing the limit. Once you are saddled with credit card debt, it can be paralysing.
Stop paying for things that you don't need
Look at the items that are coming out of your bank account - do you really need Pay TV and if you do, do you really need the sports channels now that he is gone? Do you need newspaper and magazine subscriptions? Where can you cut down? As an aside I used my supermarket FlyBuys to get my favourite magazine for free for a year. The MoneySmart website has a useful Spending App to help you track what you are spending your money on.
Make sure you are getting all the money that you are entitled to
If you have children under 18 years of age ring the Child Support Agency. Centrelink are difficult to get hold of on the phone, but you can use their website calculators to work out if you are entitled to anything. I was surprised that although I was not entitled to any payments I was eligible for a health care card.
Free financial counselling
If you just can't see your way out of a bad financial situation, you can see a free Financial Counsellor in Australia. The MoneySmart website has information on finding one in your area.
When he first left, the future that we had planned disappeared too. I had dreams of retirement and overseas holidays, the two of us wistfully watching the sun going down on one of those swinging seats on the porch of our house, which we were going to build on our block of land. Getting realistic about the financial situation that we existed in during our marriage made me realise that this future would never have been feasible. We would just never have had the financial resources to make those dreams happen, while alcohol was his priority and enabling him, was mine.
Now I am empowered with a vision for my present and future which is all about me. Sitting down and working out my financial priorities, was a step on the journey to reclaiming my life and what I want to achieve. There are now new dreams which are mine and nothing has to be compromised. I am so proud of myself and I love the new independent, rise to any challenge person that I have become!