Deciding to divorce isn’t always about thoughtful, frank discussions with your spouse. Often times it’s about introspection and detailed research on your own, conducted in secrecy. And if you do conclude that ending your marriage is the best option, continue working in secrecy to prepare for your divorce.
There are any number of reasons why secrecy may be important. Violence and emotional abuse is perhaps the most obvious. A controlling spouse and conflict avoidance are others. One of my readers, Jeff is preparing for divorce – he doesn’t know how long it’s going to be before he’s ready to file but during this phase he’s learned to act in secrecy for both his and his children’s best interests. His wife has bi-polar disorder and that often means he has no idea what he’s coming home to. Here’s Jeff:
I had been posting in online forums for support and my wife found those. I think what happened was that she has a lot of clutter problems. She went through some clutter and she went through my files. There are boundaries issues too, like she’s opening my mail all the time. She found my posts on the ADHD marriage website. I didn’t feel threatened at that time, but when it really hit the fan, they were being used against me. I had to contact the administrator of the site—the owner, and ask her to scrub my entries. They did do that. I think if the site is familiar with these situations, they do understand and they will do it for you.
I could give a million things tips!
Most browsers has something called ‘incognito mode’ where when you run a file to create a new incognito window, none of it goes in your history. You just have to remember all of your passwords and you close it and you’re done. It’s like it never happened.
If you really are afraid of that difficulty then you’ve got to go to the public library or your trusted friend. I think you need to find one friend who knows everything who can provide a place where you can go.
Other things I learned the hard way … when you go to get a post office box, you need to show your I.D. and they have to assign it to your own address. So, you need that trusted friend to open up the P.O. Box for you and put their primary address on it. You can’t receive mail at it unless you’re there two and you show your I.D. But then your name becomes secondary and you can receive mail for it.
Then, mail yourself a few pieces of mail with your return address to somewhere else such as your work address, just to make sure it works. I did that and the Post Office screwed up and was returning all of my mail, including checks and credit cards. I had to raise a ruckus at the Post Office because they were returning my rightfully addressed mail. You’ve got to account for mistakes.
Some companies won’t accept a P.O. Box, because you need something on legal records. You need a real street address and if you really want to be crafty about it, you can do something like Mail Boxes, Etc. – that has a real street address and a box number.
I tried registering my storage unit. They said, “Oh, we need a real address, not a P.O. Box.” I said, “Crap.” I gave them my work address and of course they sent mail to it about insurance for the storage unit and advertisements.
Changing Your Address Of Record
Be careful when you change addresses of sensitive things, because as a security measure they will put mail to your house saying, “We changed your address from this to this Post Office,” and you will get caught that way.
So, if you want to convert things like your own retirement accounts, what you can do is go to paperless and change your email maybe. You’ve got to be careful on what actually shows up at the house. I don’t know if switching to paperless would show up at your house. It depends on different providers.
I would to be careful if the representative can’t tell you the process with confidence. Every company was different. The bank that I chose is still sending mail to my home address, even though I’ve changed my address four and five times. They’re a big company and they make lots of mistakes. So, when you do go to a bank, don’t give them your I.D. and let them start typing in your information. You need to give your address as your trusted friend’s address as the home address and don’t even let them know what your other address is.
If you have your own bank account, get your own credit card, then do the autorenew for your storage unit and your P.O. Box, so that goes to that credit card that’s on your own bank account. That way you won’t forget to do it and have all your stuff closed, locked up or whatever.
Safe Ways To Pay
You have to be careful about how you pay for purchases, what statements those payments are going to show on and how those payments are going to be listed.
I know that I can go on Paypal right now and say, “Transfer $400 from my checking account to my Paypal account,” and then all it shows up as is “Paypal Transfer for $400.” Then, from that Paypal account, you can go anywhere you want with that money and it only stays in Paypal for the naming and everything, because that transaction with the bank is over.
The Divorce Coach Says
I want to stress that this is not about hiding assets from your spouse – you will have to make a full and truthful disclosure of all of your finances as part of the legal divorce process. This is about keeping yourself safe while you prepare for divorce.
The overall message I’d take from Jeff is the importance of asking questions and understanding a process before initiating it or engaging in it. Articles like this one will give you ideas but your situation is unique and you’ll need to think through how to tailor these ideas to your specifics. But think it through before you act and then do carry out a low-risk test. It’s better to mail a letter to yourself at your P.O. Box than have correspondence from your attorney misdirected to your home.
I agree with Jeff – don’t have your browser save your passwords. I use a separate independent program that I can access from any of my devices. Once your passwords are secure, then consider doing as much as possible online. And if you are participating in forums, commenting on blogs do use a pseudonym.
Beware nondescript or innocuous names – the name of my business for example is “Walker Business Ventures” and that’s what shows on credit card statements. That seems harmless however, Jeff pointed out that you don’t need to be a trained private detective to track down the association between the company and me and from there to divorce. A suspicious spouse could easily make the connection.
Do you have any other suggestions for maintain your secrecy?