What would you like to have in common with Gwen Stefani, Sienna Miller, Jennifer Garner, or Uma Thurman? Fame, fortune, talent, beauty, and professional success, sure! But these women are also in a kind of club you probably don’t want to join: Their marriages made headlines when their husbands reportedly cheated on them with the nannies who cared for their children.
Of course, this unenviable situation is not confined to celebrity circles. Plenty of “real life” marriages fall victim to the nanny factor as well. A nanny is an ideal child-care solution for many couples looking to balance domestic and professional demands. For those with high-profile careers requiring long hours and frequent travel on short notice, hiring a nanny to live with the family can be the best, most stable option. When a live-in nanny is cheerful and accommodating, great with the children and a comfortable fit in the household, she can quickly come to seem like a treasured part of the family. It’s a situation that can work out beautifully for everyone. But, unfortunately, it can also turn sour.
I’ve had more than one client who considered the nanny an absolute godsend… until the day that nanny’s affair with her husband came to light. At that point, as these clients can tell you, gratitude takes a sharp turn toward deep humiliation and eventually, fury.
Sometimes in these situations, the nanny gets fired and everybody moves on. Other times, the affair proves to be the last straw in a stressed and failing marriage, and divorce attorneys are contacted.
If you are in this situation, what can you do?
Maintain your preparedness, even in the happiest of times.
No matter what the reasons for your divorce, the best way to get through it in strong financial shape is to be prepared. Now, of course there’s no way to prepare for the shock of discovering your husband in a tryst with your trusted nanny. However, if you’re a financially savvy spouse, you have been preparing to get through divorce successfully—even if that was preparation you thought you might never need.
What does preparedness mean, exactly? Why do I recommend that you prepare for divorce, if you’re not planning to divorce?
To my mind, being financially prepared for divorce means that you are very familiar, in a hands-on way, with all aspects of your marital finances. You can list your assets and liabilities, and you have a good working knowledge of your income and expenses. You are financially literate.
Ideally, you will also have a properly executed prenuptial agreement in place, setting forth your and your husband’s wishes about what would be considered your separate property in the event of a divorce. You will also have maintained credit in your name alone, and have sufficient funds available to hire an excellent professional divorce team.
Get your emotions in control.
Ending your marriage after discovering your husband has had an affair with the young woman you trusted with your children gives rise to very different emotions than divorcing after years of undefined “drifting apart.” The betrayal and anger will be intense, to put it mildly. You’ll need to deal with those feelings, and all the others that accompany the emotional roller coaster that divorce brings with it. As soon as possible, you should find yourself a compassionate therapist to help you cope.
That’s critically important, because when it comes to the legal and financial considerations at the heart of the divorce process, you must do everything you can to Think Financially, Not Emotionally®. You may have heard the old saying, “Marriage is about love, but divorce is all about money” … and it’s true. The nuts and bolts of your divorce will concern the division of assets and liabilities. For this complex task, you want your thinking to be absolutely as clear as possible. Making financial decisions out of spite, anger, or sadness can lead to deep regret or even disaster.
With your financial know-how in good shape and your emotions properly handled, you are best positioned to navigate the divorce process and emerge in the best possible financial situation.
Hiring a nanny can be an excellent way to be sure your children are well cared for when you and your husband need to focus on your jobs. The continuity, convenience, and trust can be invaluable. The relationship is most effective when all parties keep in mind, always, that it is a professional one. If your nanny and/or your husband have trouble upholding that standard, it’s absolutely time to re-evaluate.
Reminder: The nanny works for you, not the other way around. You do not have to tolerate inappropriate behavior from her toward your husband (even if he doesn’t seem to mind it), and she doesn’t have to tolerate it from him. She may be a great fit for your kids, but remember that there are other excellent candidates out there. If the nanny conducts herself unprofessionally, replace her. If your husband conducts himself unprofessionally… well, at the very least, you have some serious talking to do.
Hot tip: If you don’t have a prenuptial agreement, then a postnuptial agreement is the next best thing. To draw one up, you and your husband should have separate legal representation. I strongly recommend you consult with a family law attorney who specializes in helping divorcing women.
Legal matters: Check with your attorney to see if your husband’s affair could influence the terms of your divorce. If you live in a state that still allows adultery to be considered as a factor in determining alimony or the division of assets, it could be worth making the affair an issue (if you can prove it). However, that can get ugly, and very expensive, very quickly, so make sure it would be worth it. Divorcing without assigning “fault” to one spouse is usually preferable. That said, if the affair was conducted in a way that affected your children, or exposed them to inappropriate people or situations, that could definitely impact any custody agreement you might negotiate.