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Signs Your Spouse is Planning a Divorce

That little voice in the back of your mind tells you that something isn't right.  You suspect your spouse is unhappier than usual and may be thinking about calling it quits.  Perhaps you don't want to confirm your worst fears; however, there are definitely warning signs that your spouse is planning a divorce.  The following clues are adapted from an article originally appearing on the website of the Austin, Texas firm of Noelke English Maples St. Leger Blair, L.L.P.

Clues About Money

One of the most significant concerns about a potential divorce is money. If you are paying attention to your finances, there may be tell-tale signals that your spouse has met with a divorce attorney. These warning signs may present themselves in one of the following ways:

  1. Your spouse becomes unwilling to share financial information, or puts up roadblocks that prohibit you from accessing information that you could previously access. For example, you log onto your shared bank account and all of a sudden, you have trouble accessing an account online that you were able to access the last time you tried.
  2. You see multiple or larger than usual cash withdrawals. While one of these withdrawals may not be noticeable or alarming, when you add them all together, it is clear that something unusual is going on. Your spouse may be stashing away money to hire a lawyer, save up to move into a new house or apartment, or he or she may be buying gifts for a paramour.
  3. You receive a bank or financial statement in the mail from a bank or financial institution where you were not aware either of you had an account.
  4. There may be unusual credit card charges, or charges for things that are inconsistent with a commitment to the marriage. For example, you may see a flower shop or jewelry store credit card charge and realize that you had not received any such gifts.  You may see a charge for a hotel for your spouse's "business trip" that is not typical of the type of hotel one stays at for a business trip, and there is no reimbursement by your spouse's employer for that stay.
  5. Your spouse, who does not typically pay the bills and maintain the family budget, suddenly shows an interest in the family's finances, including how much things cost, how much equity is in the house, how much the car payments are, how much income each of you makes, and so on. If he or she has spoken with a divorce attorney, the attorney has most likely told your spouse to get a handle on the family's finances.
  6. You notice your tax returns are missing or have been moved from the normal location.  This may be a signal your spouse is "safe-guarding" the returns or made copies of them for his or her attorney. 
  7. Your spouse is unwilling to commit to anything that involves long term financial planning. He or she may not be willing to purchase a new house or new car, or make any new investments, knowing full well that the two of you will not be together long term.

All of these atypical behaviors relating to your finances are indicators that your spouse is planning to exit the marriage, has already met with a divorce attorney, and is "divorce planning."

Clues Relating to the Children

If you have kids, you may see some changes in the way that your spouse interacts with the children and the way that he or she tries to change the public's perception of his or her involvement in the child's life. The following are some clues:

  1. Your spouse suddenly becomes more involved at your child's school. He or she may show up for lunches for the first time or may attend school events or more school events than usual. He or she may initiate face time with the teacher for the first time, when you have been the parent who primarily contacted your child's teacher.
  2. Your spouse volunteers to take your child to the doctor, even though you are the one who has historically taken your child to the doctor.
  3. Your spouse starts attending all of your child's extracurricular activities instead of working late, or volunteers to take your child to the activity, when you have historically been the parent to attend and drive your child to activities.
  4. Your spouse initiates special one on one time with your child, suggesting that he or she spend a Saturday or Sunday together with your child, just the two of them.
  5. Your spouse takes on a duty that he or she has not typically done. For example, your spouse begins cooking dinners for the family, or offering to go the grocery store or drive the children to school every morning.

While any one of these things may be welcomed by you, and truly beneficial to your child, there may be an ulterior motive behind these "good deeds" by your spouse. He or she may be trying to present an image to the public that he or she is an involved parent who can handle all aspects of caretaking for your child. These sudden changes are often an indicator that your spouse has spoken with an attorney and been advised as to the importance of being an involved parent prior to and at the time of divorce.

Clues About An Affair

Magazines and talk shows feature segments about the typical signs of a cheating spouse. Here are some of the signs that you may miss unless you are paying attention.

  1. Your spouse's cell phone habits change.   Your spouse no longer leaves the phone on the kitchen counter or lying around the house. Instead, he or she takes the phone to bed and to the bathroom. Your spouse changes his or her cell phone password. There is a significant increase in the data usage plan on the phone bill, as the number of text messages have increased from the previous bill. You no longer have access to the detailed information on the family phone bill.
  2. More and more time passes without physical intimacy.  It's easy to chalk up a lack of physical intimacy to hectic schedules and busy lives. However, if the frequency of physical intimacy becomes less and less, it may be an indicator that your spouse is fulfilling that need with someone else.
  3. Your spouse's physical appearance changes.  Your spouse may start a new workout regime. He or she may start to dress differently, wear a different perfume or cologne, or start using a hair product or doing his or her hair differently. While we would all like to think that our spouses are constantly trying to make improvements for us, if the behavior seems sudden, it may be an indicator that there is someone else he or she is trying to please.
  4. Your spouse begins spending more time on the computer.  With all of the existing social media, it has become significantly easier to either befriend an old flame, or find a new one. What may start out as "friending" an old boyfriend or girlfriend, can quickly transform into rekindling an old flame. Under the guise of "I'm working," your spouse may be spending more and more time instant messaging or emailing a potential or existing paramour.
  5. Your spouse is unwilling to make long-term vacations plans.  Much like unwillingness to make long term financial commitments, your spouse may also be unwilling to make any long term vacation plans. He or she may resist talking about summer vacation plans, or plans for next Christmas, as he or she is well aware that the two of you will not be together long term. While this lack of commitment may be easy to mask, with one partner saying he or she is too busy to even think long term, it may be an indicator that your spouse is planning an exit from the marriage.

The path of divorce is not an easy one under most circumstances. However, being prepared can make the process easier and less frightening. If you see indications that your spouse has been having an affair or divorce planning, it is important for you to speak with an attorney as soon as possible so that you can learn about the legal and everyday implications a divorce may have on you.

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