For a very long time I was in denial. I had gotten to the point of my marriage when I was leaving no matter what. But it still took me about 4 years to untangle myself. A friend of mine (the Elle he mentions in the recording) gave me the name of a lawyer and I booked a one hour consultation. I went in and told him my story, gave him my numbers and asked him for his advice. I advise when you are looking for a lawyer, take the time to find a good one . Search the internet for reviews, ask friends or trusted authorities. Make sure they work in family law, and if possible that they understand domestic abuse. This was critical in my case, and made all the difference.
I was definitely pointed in the right direction. The lawyers name was John (from Bell and Associates in you happen to be in Ottawa and need a lawyer yourself.) Once I finished talking he looked at me, and I knew right away he not only believed me, he completely understood. "Is this normal?" I asked him. He looked across the table at me, and nodded, "Very common, that's what these guys do"
What he was referring to was the various methods that are used to keep you in the relationship. One of the things my ex would do is just simply refuse to budge. I had actually tried to leave many many times before. But as I mentioned, I was really afraid of poverty. I also am very dedicated to my children, I wanted to disrupt them the least amount possible. I wanted to keep them in their home, or at least in the same area so they could attend the same school. My ex, never worked in Ottawa until relatively recently. He travelled to work, for awhile to Renfrew, and at different time to Northern Ontario. For him he could have relocated to an affordable location really easily which would mean I could keep the kids in their home and school. The area we lived in though, it was really expensive, as a single mother it would have been very difficult for me to afford it at the time. Trying to talk to him about it. He just refused. Wouldn't talk about it, wouldn't negotiate, no compromise. He knew I couldn't afford to go get another place. He knew I was concerned about maintaining my credit rating, and he knew I put up with anything to make sure my kids were taken care of. Eventually I would just give up and end up staying how ever many more years. I thought I couldn't afford to get rid of him. I thought I would be destitute.
What that lawyer did was took out a piece of blank paper. He drew a line down the middle and he said, this is how it works. He broke down all the numbers for me, and explained how everything get split up. He explained child support and how the judge would likely rule. When he was done he sat back in his chair and he looked at me and he said reassuringly "You'll be fine, you have nothing to worry about" I know financially this is not true for everyone. But I know what I believed, even after my separation. I really thought I would be struggling. I had a very detailed budget planned out, and it was pretty much the basics. But I knew I was prepared to eat Kraft dinner for the rest of my life if that's what it took. Actually Kraft Dinner is pretty expensive these days, let's go with ramen (they got me through university, Ramen noodles, a dozen eggs, and a bag frozen vegetables your good for a week). I did a few other things that eased my post separation and divorce situation though.
I only spent an hour with a lawyer for my divorce, in that hour, John told me everything I needed to know. I was lucky. My ex can't afford lawyers, and I just found out I could. I lost my fear in that moment. i was going to be alright this could happen. That first flicker of real hope. I can get out. The next time when I approached the topic of leaving. I remember he was in my back room, his back against the laundry machine. He said "your never going to get me off this farm" John had given me the confidence to reply "I will just let the lawyers handle it" and I walked away. And you know what, he basically just gave up. Just like that. After so many years, if I had not been afraid to actually just push ahead, I might have got out so much sooner. It was all hot air, when it came down to it he just folded.
The lawyer gave me a few other key tips as well when dealing with abusive men in court cases, maybe it applies to women as well, though I don't know about that aspect. He told me:
Don't believe anything he says about the law. They will lie to you and mislead you.
Get your documents in order, start early before he knows what your planning.
Have an escape plan, stash stuff at a friends house in case they get violent and you have to leave early.
Once they realize you are really going to leave and they lose control is really when they get dangerous, if there is any threat at all, get out of there. I did see this, he did get more vicious as it became obvious I was leaving. The threats got more serious, and I realized, yes, it was only a matter of time before he would start hitting me.
He also told me the myth about giving up the right to live in your matrimonial home if you leave the house is not true. So if I felt I had to leave for my safety, do it. And actually I did do that. I ended up going to my uncles.
Don't let fear of the law keep you stuck. Being afraid to use legal channels kept me stuck a long time. Being afraid of the costs of a legal battle kept me afraid for a long time. I know it can get messy, but its no reason to stay in a unhappy situation.