Once Swati saw the divorce red flags, accepted that her marriage could not be saved and filed for divorce, her husband started to harass her. They were still living together in the same house, Swati having been led to believe they were required to do so by the laws of Illinois until the divorce was final. Her husband was a fighter and there seemed to be no end to the negotiations. Then Swati’s therapist gave her the solution. Here’s Swati:
I had a wonderful therapist who said,
You need to move out, and move out with your daughter because if you move out without your child, you’re abandoning them. Just move out with your daughter, it won’t be abandonment. You will have to go in front of the judge and explain yourself, but trust me, they will not make you move back in.
I was so frightened when she said that, but I agreed that he wasn’t going to move out because I was paying for everything. I was supporting him. So then she did this technique with me that I think is common in therapy. She said,
I want you to close your eyes and tell me everything that scares you about you moving out and imagine that all of it happens, imagine all of the worst things happen. Tell me everything it is.
So I said, “Well, I move out, have to go to court and then my ex husband disappears with my daughter.”
She was like “OK, so far he’s only ever spent a maximum of six or eight hours with her on her own…” because he kept disappearing, he was seeing somebody else. But then she said “I’ll give you that. Say he disappears for three weeks. Just say you have to not see your daughter for three weeks and you know somebody will find him, etc….isn’t that worth the price of your freedom, to be out of there?”
I thought about what she said and I finally came to terms with it, “She’s right. I have to be the one who gets out.” She talked to me the Monday or Tuesday of one week and the same week I was like “I must move out” and once I decide, I mobilize immediately. I called four girlfriends, they said they would come over that Thursday, two days later, they said they would send three movers.
When the movers got there I said,
“I’ll tip each of you $50 if you get me out in an hour.”
At this time, we had a huge town home with three bedrooms, two living rooms … it was a fully furnished home, but I decided I didn’t want to take anything, even though I had bought all of it because it would make me think of our marriage. All I really wanted to take was my daughter’s clothes, my clothes, her crib and a couple of things that were personal mementos for me and had some memories. I moved out with very little stuff. It was no problem to move out in an hour.
My attorney didn’t want me to move out, of course, but I did and then he said, “As soon as you move out, you need to call us because I need to fax his attorney and tell him you’ve moved out and tell him that that Friday, the next day, is his parenting time and you’re not trying to take away his parenting time because you can get arrested for that.”
So, he did that and we went in front of the judge the next morning. She ordered me to pay my husband $1,000 to help with the next month’s mortgage, which wasn’t even half. I could tell they felt bad for me. I didn’t have to go back, I was so happy. He had no way to continuously harass me every moment of every day and night anymore.
I don’t think my attorneys could have told me to move out because it’s not legal but if you move out with your kid, you haven’t abandoned your child. I really could not have done that without my therapist and I think it was great advice. I wish I had moved out earlier because the divorce took sixteen-seventeen months, it really didn’t need to take that long.
The Divorce Coach Says
I’m not a lawyer and I’m not familiar with divorce in Illinois but it seems insane to require that two people who are ending their marriage continue to live under the same roof until the divorce is final. Sometimes it takes a little out-of-the-box thinking to figure out how you can solve your problem while still abiding by the law. Thankfully Swati had her therapist to help her figure out how to end the harassment.
I really like that technique of verbalizing your worst fears. When I’m avoiding something or procrastinating, it’s usually a sign there’s something about it that’s scaring me. Granted, I have nothing going on in my life that would be as harrowing as harassment or possibly losing custody of my children, but I can see me using this technique.
Sometimes it takes an action like moving out, for your spouse to accept that your marriage is really over, like Emma who left her husband on her lunch break. I didn’t have to resort to anything quite so drastic but it did take my ex a long time to accept we were divorcing. As I recall, we’d agreed in the September that he would move out and that we would tell the children like a week before he was moving out. Well, September went, October came and went, still no sign of moving out. Then in early November I said we needed to tell the children because I couldn’t go through the holidays carrying this secret. We told them and November went, and still no move.
The kids and I traveled to England for Christmas and came back to tons of snow due to a blizzard in Denver. As I was shoveling the driveway, I asked if he’d found an apartment. No, he hadn’t. He thought that I might have had second thoughts while in England. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing but no, I hadn’t changed my mind. Within two weeks of that, we filed for divorce and he moved out.
Coming next, what it took for Swati to get her husband to settle and avoid court.