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How do I protect myself financially during a separation.

Lodi, CA |

My wife and I have separated due to her abusive behavior. It is not amicable. She has all of our possessions, including our car. (She has another car in her name only) She will not agree to work anything out and doesn't care that I can not get to work. She is threatening to ruin me financially. My name is on apartment lease and car. We have been married 1 1/2 years. We are young, share no other financial obligations or property. She makes more than twice the income I do and mine is not much. I don't want to do anything mean, I don't even want a divorce at this point. I just want to know what steps to take to protect myself from her threats and to at least have a car to drive to work before I lose my job. I can not afford a car or a lawyer. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thank you Mr. Parks. The abusive behavior is verbal and physical, we've been in counseling for a year, it has not helped. The car/payments is in both of our names, as well as the apartment lease. I moved out and am renting a room until I know where we are headed, we have 9 months left on the apartment lease. I do not believe she has any intention of getting a divorce, though she threatens it, it is part of that crazy cycle. I do not want a divorce, I want her to get help. I am hoping my moving out may cause her to do that, though doubtful. In the mean time, I need to make decisions to protect myself financially. Are there self help centers or low cost legal advice for a separation? She is also threatening to take me to court while we are separated (or possibly divorce?) to get me to pay 1/2 the monthly rent on the apartment lease and car payment. She has the car and I can not afford to pay for a room rental and an apartment lease I can't live in because she is abusive. Thank you.

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Attorney answers 1


This is a tough situation. Even though you say you don't want a divorce it seems evident you are in a situation where she does in fact want one. At this point in time you are saying she has all of your possessions, the car and will not agree to work anything out. It sounds as if you need to initiate the divorce proceeding and file what is called an "Order to Show Cause" with the court and request a hearing for the return of the joint car to allow you to get to work. Being that it might take 45-60 days to get into court another consideration is use of the ex parte calendar that would probably get a hearing much quicker than that, but you often have to show extreme circiumstances or absolute emergencies to get any kind of remedy. Usually for most property disputes, the court won't grant relief on the ex parte calendar.

I would say you should go to the local county superior court and go to the self-help center if there is one. Have them help you fill out the required forms to initate a hearing describing in detail what the situation is, why you need the return of the family car while the divorce proceeds (making sure of course to include the information that she has one as well). One thing I'm unclear on, in the question you phrase it as "our" car and then later say your name is on the car. Which is it? This may change the answer to this question.

As to the apartment lease, it is unclear from your question if you are still living under the same roof or are living somehere else or if both parties are on the lease or just you.

It does not matter she makes twice as much as you. The court in family law procedings is statutorily bound to consider the parties' respective income in making temporary awards of support or attorney fees. She may be ordered to pay support or fees if you ask for it when requesting a hearing before the court.

Additionally, I'm not sure what you mean by abusive behavior. This can mean different things. It doesn't appear from your question you are indicating a want for a restraining order. Depending upon the type of abuse that may warrant further investigation to see if there's anything there, if you want to proceed for that type of relief.

Sounds like you should at least consult with an attorney to further get into some of these unanswered issues if at all possible. Your other option is to request a hearing for the return of your car if it's a car under both of your names.

The foregoing is not legal advice, and is provided for general informational purposes. If you need specific legal advice for your specific situation, please consult an attorney.

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