The Allstate Foundation Moving Ahead Curriculum


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The Allstate Foundation Moving Ahead Curriculum
A FINANCIAL EMPOWERMENT RESOURCE

Table of Contents

Introduction

3

Module 1: Understanding Financial Abuse-Keeping Safe and Starting Over

7

Financially Abusive Relationships

10

Financial Safety Planning

12

Separation, Divorce and Child Support

18

Disclosing Abuse

23

Privacy Protection

24

Module 2: Learning Financial Fundamentals

28

Financial Management

31

Budgeting and Saving

35

Assets and Liabilities

43

Banking Options

45

Module 3: Mastering Credit Basics

50

Reviewing Your Credit Report

53

Understanding Your Credit Score

58

Improving Your Credit Score

61

Understanding Bankruptcy

68

Module 4: Building Financial Foundations

74

Financial Paperwork

77

Loan Options

79

Housing Options

84

Home Ownership

91

Mortgage Application Process

96

Module 5: Long-Term Planning

102

Saving Strategies

105

Investment Options

107

Insurance Overview

111

Education Opportunities

114

Education Finances

116

Glossary

120

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©2019 The Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence. All Rights Reserved.

Introduction

Survivors of domestic violence face serious challenges. Many struggle to find a safe place to live and put food on the table. Others struggle to find and hold a job. Protecting one’s money and other assets can also be a challenge. The Allstate Foundation Moving Ahead Curriculum can help.
Domestic violence survivors deserve access to the resources they need. They deserve housing, jobs and economic resources for their families. This is true whether they leave abusive relationships or remain in them.
Every story and strategy in this curriculum is designed to help survivors overcome the challenges they will meet. It explores many of the choices that may present themselves. It also identifies community resources to help survivors build financially independent lives.
Community resources may include:
• Domestic violence programs that offer support for safety and financial success
• Job and professional skills development programs
• Community organizations that work with local banks and foundations to help survivors save money for education, develop a business or buy a home

The Allstate Foundation Moving Ahead Curriculum also offers a range of information from basic money and financial management principles to advanced, long-term financial planning.
This curriculum was developed to help provide survivors with:
• Resources to strengthen their confidence in their ability to take action.
• Strategies to address the financial and safety challenges when ending an abusive relationship.
• Resources for working through the quality-of-life changes survivors may meet when fleeing abuse.
• Approaches to work through challenges after an abuser has misused the survivor’s personal information.
• Methods to understand financial fundamentals.
• Steps to building a strong financial base, such as budgeting, saving, building credit and managing debt.
The focus of this curriculum is on women because women comprise the majority of domestic violence victims. The use of gender-specific pronouns in this workbook is not meant to discount the experiences of any survivor in any way.

©2019 The Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence. All Rights Reserved.

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Summary
The Allstate Foundation and the National Network to End Domestic Violence congratulate you for taking this first step toward gaining control of your future. We are excited to share this curriculum with you. Know that financial planning and management is a life-long process. And it is within your reach.
Surviving from day-to-day, struggling to make ends meet, escaping abuse and starting over can be frightening. Trust in your right to be safe. And understand that change is possible.
Only you can decide the best pace to take as you pursue change. Trained advocates, community-based organizations, culturally specific organizations and financial institutions are available. They can support you and advocate on your behalf. You are not alone.
If you have any questions or need a fuller explanation of the information in this curriculum, feel free to ask questions. In addition, contact a domestic violence advocate, the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the National Network to End Domestic Violence at 1-202-543-5566.
Limitations of Curriculum
Many political, social and cultural beliefs affect our views about money. Not everyone has the same ideals or ways to measure financial success. This curriculum can’t reflect all beliefs. But it does attempt to address a range of value systems.
This curriculum also offers information about community resources and how to access them. Unfortunately, discrimination due to race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation or physical ability does exist. Discrimination may affect one’s access to resources. In addition, one’s political or legal status in the United States may also affect access to resources.
Stand up. Speak Out.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

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©2019 The Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence. All Rights Reserved.

This curriculum is dedicated to domestic violence survivors everywhere.
Special thanks to the survivors and advocates across the country who shared their stories and experiences with us. Your dedication, persistence, courage and resourcefulness are truly heroic. Without your amazing input, this revision would not have been possible.
To the survivors who are reading this curriculum, know that you are not alone. It is possible to recover from financial abuse, and we congratulate you on taking this step toward
financial independence. By increasing your financial knowledge, you will be able to secure a better future for yourself and your family. You will also set an example to the thousands
of other women who have also experienced financial abuse.
The Allstate Foundation and the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Inc.

©2019 The Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence. All Rights Reserved.

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The Allstate Foundation
Established in 1952, The Allstate Foundation is an independent, charitable organization made possible through subsidiaries of The Allstate Corporation. The Allstate Foundation works to create prosperous communities where people are inspired and empowered to fulfill their hopes and dreams by empowering youth, ending domestic violence, strengthening nonprofit leaders and transforming communities. Learn more at allstatefoundation.org.
Allstate Foundation Purple Purse
Allstate Foundation Purple Purse is the longest running national program focused on ending domestic violence through a proven solution: financial empowerment services for survivors. Since 2005, the program has invested over $66 million and helped more than 1.7 million survivors recover their financial independence and break the cycle of domestic violence. For more information, visit allstatefoundation.org/enddomesticviolence.
National Network To End Domestic Violence
The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), a social change organization, is dedicated to creating a social, political, and economic environment in which violence against women no longer exists. NNEDV is the leading voice for domestic violence victims and their advocates in America and represents the 56 state and U.S. territory coalitions that connect local service providers to services for survivors. For more information, please visit nnedv.org.
The Allstate Foundation Moving Ahead Curriculum
A study conducted by Rutgers University in 2014 shows how The Allstate Foundation Moving Ahead Curriculum helps survivors become more independent and feel safer, more hopeful and less financially strained. A total of 457 survivors were selected to participate in the study based on their involvement and use of the curriculum. Participants showed significant improvements in key financial behaviors by between 42-103% after learning the curriculum. Additionally, they reported less hardship, less financial strain, and a 10% increase in quality of life ratings.

MODULE 1
Understanding Financial Abuse Keeping Safe and Starting Over
Key topics covered in this module include: • Financially Abusive Relationships • Financial Safety Planning • Separation, Divorce and Child Support • Disclosing Abuse • Privacy Challenges

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©2019 The Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence. All Rights Reserved.

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MODULE 1 | Understanding Financial Abuse-Keeping Safe and Starting Over

MODULE 1 | Understanding Financial Abuse-Keeping Safe and Starting Over

Understanding Financial Abuse
Financial abuse is a common tactic used by batterers. They use it to control their partners and to make their partners feel alone. The consequences can be devastating. The experience of abuse is different for every survivor. This module reflects these differences. It offers key information for those trying to overcome financial abuse, whatever their background.
Ending a relationship with an abusive partner is a big step. This module provides information to consider before you do. It outlines what an abusive financial relationship is. It shows the elements of a healthy one. It also includes steps to protect your safety. It does not have all the answers, but it’s a start.
The information in this curriculum is intended to be general advice for persons in an abusive relationship. But not everyone’s situation is the same. You may need specific advice for your situation. If so, contact a domestic violence advocate or thehotline.org. You may also contact a financial advisor or attorney.

Stand up. Speak Out.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

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©2019 The Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence. All Rights Reserved.

Story of Survival
Fatima is an immigrant from Ethiopia. She came to the U.S. after marrying Fariq, a U.S. citizen who is also Ethiopian. Fariq controlled every aspect of their lives. He managed all bank accounts and payed all bills. Fatima wasn’t allowed to leave their home, even to shop for food, clothing or household supplies. Fariq also controlled how she cared for their children and criticized her for the lessons she chose to share with them.
After five years of marriage, Fatima was determined to free herself of his insults and control. She left her abusive husband. She knew little about her new country and had no idea where to turn for help. After leaving, she visited a library where she found information that led her to a domestic violence shelter. While working with her advocate at the shelter, Fatima began to make plans to support herself and her children.
Fatima filled out an application for an apartment. It was denied due to a poor credit rating. Her advocate helped her access her credit report. It revealed that Fatima was responsible for more than $33,000 in debt. This was due to her husband’s business, which he had put in her name. Now, in addition to the pressure of caring for herself and her children, Fatima must manage her overwhelming debt and build her credit history.
Fatima’s story is one of many domestic violence survivors. The good news is that there is hope. There are people, programs and organizations willing and ready to help Fatima recover from this setback. They will also help you.
In Fatima’s situation, she was able to recover financially and gain independence. She did this by seeking out appropriate help, working hard, staying focused and never giving up despite the challenges that continued to cross her path.
This curriculum, along with supportive partners in your local community, will help you do just that: gain personal and financial independence.

©2019 The Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence. All Rights Reserved.

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MODULE 1 | Understanding Financial Abuse-Keeping Safe and Starting Over

Financially Abusive Relationships

Elements of a Healthy Financial Relationship
Family finances are seldom easy. In fact, most couples argue about money. However, it is possible to have a financially healthy relationship. Here are some ways couples can negotiate their wants and needs:
• One partner might manage the day-to-day finances and bill paying. But both partners have access to any financial information.
• Couples may have different values around money. But together, they will negotiate to form joint financial goals.
• Couples set plans to meet joint goals and support each other in the process.
• One partner may earn more income. But both partners understand and respect that decisionmaking is equal.
• Both partners have access to their money. They do not need to ask permission or hide their dayto-day spending.
• Large or long-term financial decisions are made jointly between partners.
• Both partners are honest. Both have access to money and know where and how money is spent.
Healthy financial relationships are about compromise and equality. A true partnership does not include financial abuse. It’s based on open communication. It works toward agreement in all financial matters.
What is Financial Abuse?
Financial abuse is a tactic used by abusers to control victims by preventing access to money or

other financial resources. It often begins subtly and progresses over time. It’s like other forms of abuse — it aims to gain power and control. Abuse can take many forms, such as emotional and physical abuse. Manipulation, intimidation and threats are also forms of abuse. Each one is a tool to get and maintain control over another person. The goal is to trap the person in the relationship.
Financial abuse works by controlling access to money and other resources. It might include:
• Controlling how money is spent.
• Withholding money or “giving an allowance.”
• Withholding basic living resources, medication or food.
• Not allowing a partner to work or earn money.
• Stealing a partner’s identity, money, credit or property.
Financial abuse meets the definition of domestic violence. It is a pattern of behaviors or actions that are used to intimidate and threaten another person.
Financial abuse can happen to anyone. It’s not based on income, education or level of independence. Survivors of abuse face similar struggles, challenges and conflicts. They all strive to care for their families. They all must secure income, find affordable housing and create longterm assets.
It’s not always easy to know if you are in a financially abusive relationship. Here is a list of questions to ask yourself:

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©2019 The Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence. All Rights Reserved.

MODULE 1 | Understanding Financial Abuse-Keeping Safe and Starting Over

Does your partner:
• Steal money from you or your family? Force you to give access to your money or financial accounts?
• Make you feel as though you don’t have a right to know any details about money? About household decisions?
• Make financial or investment decisions that affect you or your family without consulting or reaching agreement with you?
• Refuse to include you in important meetings with banks, financial planners or retirement specialists?
• Forbid you to work? Or to attend school or training sessions?
• Overuse your credit cards? Refuse to pay the bills?
• Force you to file false tax claims or other legal/ financial documents?
• Prevent you from obtaining or using credit cards or bankcards?
• Withhold physical resources from you? These could include food, clothes, medications or shelter.

• Force you to work in a family business for little or no pay?
• Refuse to work to help support the family?
• Interfere with your performance at work? This could include frequent telephone calls, emails or visits to your workplace.
• Force you to turn over your benefit or public assistance payments? Threaten to falsely report you for “cheating” on your benefits so they will be cut off?
• Force you to cash in, sell or sign over any financial assets or inheritance you own? This could include bonds, stock or property.
• Force you to agree to a power of attorney? This would enable your partner to legally sign documents without your knowledge or consent.
Did you answer yes to one or more of these questions? If so, you may be in a financially abusive relationship. This can be very difficult to deal with. But know there is help available. You are not alone. Please continue reading this module. It will give you strategies. These strategies can help you understand your situation. They can empower you to regain control over your finances.

©2019 The Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence. All Rights Reserved.

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MODULE 1 | Understanding Financial Abuse-Keeping Safe and Starting Over

Financial Safety Planning

This curriculum has one over-riding goal: safety. If you are in an abusive relationship, your first step is to plan. A good plan will help keep you and your family safe. To start, working with a domestic violence advocate is critical. If you need to find one, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. They will help connect you with an advocate. An advocate will help you work through the strategies in this curriculum.
What should you do if you are being financially abused?
Step One: Think about your confidence level regarding finances.
How does being a victim of financial abuse make you feel about money? Do you feel able to manage your finances? If you don’t, understand that your abuser probably wanted you to feel this way. This was a way to maintain power and control over you. Know that gaining confidence is in your reach. You may need information, assistance and support. With these, you can become a successful money manager. And you can work toward setting and meeting your own financial goals.
You may or may not choose to leave your relationship. Whatever you choose, financial safety planning is critical. Although there is no

perfect way to guarantee your safety, you can take steps to increase your options.
Step Two: Gain information about your assets and liabilities.
Information is power. It is common for abusive partners to hide information about assets, bank accounts and liabilities (debts). Consider looking for financial documents. Make copies and hide them in a safe place. One possible hiding place is a safety deposit box. Many banks have them. You can rent one for a small fee to store documents safely without telling your partner. You can also store copies at a friend’s or family member’s house.
There are other documents that should be stored in a safe place. These include:
• Social Security numbers (for yourself, children and your partner).
• Copies of marriage and birth certificates.
• Copies of bank and credit card statements.
• Copies of any benefits (public assistance, retirement) or insurance coverage (medical, auto, life, etc.).
Is there property that you own jointly with your partner? These could be items such as a home, cars and furniture. Make a list of the things you

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©2019 The Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence. All Rights Reserved.

MODULE 1 | Understanding Financial Abuse-Keeping Safe and Starting Over

own together. Consider taking pictures of these things. To show that the things were part of your home, include children, family or friends. These pictures can be very helpful if you decide to leave the relationship.
Step Three: Begin saving money immediately.
It is common for abusers to prevent their partner from having money of their own. Consider finding a way to save some cash for yourself.
This could be used for emergencies or if you need to escape on short notice. Saving money can be a challenge. It’s possible, but it does take some creativity.
Some ideas:
• Save change from purchases and keep it in a safe place or the secret account.
• Open a bank account that your partner is unaware of. Have bank statements sent to a safe mailing address or electronically to your own private email account.

• Have gifts, raises or bonuses from work or family deposited directly into the secret account.
Also, consider taking at least half of the money in any joint checking and saving accounts with you if you leave.
Many victims have been surprised to learn their partner had drained their joint bank accounts when they leave. This can be a very powerful method of regaining control. Taking at least half of the money is a way of protecting yourself.
Withdrawing money from a joint account can provide you the means to take care of yourself and your children. However, if you do remove funds from a jointly held account, it’s important to keep receipts or track how the funds were spent. This is in case a judge or court asks you to show how the money was used. This is especially true when children are involved. If you are hesitant to withdraw money, remember that you can always return it. Let taking care of yourself and any children be your top priority.

©2019 The Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence. All Rights Reserved.

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MODULE 1 | Understanding Financial Abuse-Keeping Safe and Starting Over

Step Four: Seek financial independence, one step at a time.
Consider opening your own checking account and applying for a credit card. Having a personal checking account and at least one credit card in your name ensures that you have your own personal credit history. See Module 3 to learn more about how credit works.
These are four steps to help prepare you for leaving your relationship. Again, we urge you to seek the help of a domestic violence advocate. You can find one at a local domestic violence program. An advocate can give you additional guidance as you prepare for personal and financial independence.
There is one more thing you may also want to consider—filing for an order of protection. This is especially important if you have experienced threats or feel that you are in danger.
Orders of Protection
An order of protection is a court order signed by a judge. It prohibits a batterer from threatening, stalking or harassing a victim of domestic violence. Different states have different names for these orders. Some call them “protective

orders.” Others call them “restraining orders” or “protection from abuse orders.” In some states they may be called yet another name. Orders of protection are available in every state. However, each state has its own process and requirements.
An order of protection can:
• Remove a partner from your home.
• Ban a partner from coming to your home or workplace.
• Ban a partner from contacting you by phone or email.
The aim of these protections is physical safety. An order of protection can also help in other ways. Many states recognize that having access to money (economic relief) is a key to staying safe. There is a range of economic relief options available through the protection order laws. Options vary from state-to-state.
The common forms of economic relief are:
• Child support
• Spousal support
• Mortgage and rent payment
• Temporary possession of property (such as a car and clothing)

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©2019 The Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence. All Rights Reserved.

MODULE 1 | Understanding Financial Abuse-Keeping Safe and Starting Over

• Reimbursement for medical expenses and property damage
Other examples of economic relief include:
• Lost wages
• Attorney’s fees
• Moving expenses
• Payment of debts, bills, and insurance that come due during the time of the protection order
You may be interested in seeking a protection order. If so, consider talking with a domestic violence advocate or an attorney. An advocate can identify which forms of protection you may be eligible for. This includes both your economic needs and your safety needs. An advocate may also be available to go with you to court.

Orders of protection can be an important tool for safety. However, they can’t guarantee your safety or access to economic resources. Orders of protection are not the right choice for everyone. The first step is to contact a domestic violence advocate in your community. An advocate is trained and can help you sort through the pros and cons of obtaining an order.
Together, you can decide if an order of protection is a good option for you.
Protection orders are available regardless of your immigration status. They can serve as evidence for survivors who are seeking legal status.

©2019 The Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence. All Rights Reserved.

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MODULE 1 | Understanding Financial Abuse-Keeping Safe and Starting Over

However, abusive partners who violate protection orders may affect their own immigration status. Attorneys or specially trained advocates might be helpful in obtaining and understanding a protection order.
If it is safe to use a computer, you can get more information about order of protection laws in your state.
• Go to www.womenslaw.org and type ‘‘order of protection” and your state name in the search box.
• Or conduct an internet search using the key words ‘order of protection’ and your state name.
• The Battered Women’s Justice Project produced the Protection Order Relief Matrix. This Matrix is a chart listing types of financial relief available in each state. Go to www.bwjp.org/resourcecenter/resource-results/protection-orderrelief-matrix.html for more information and to download the Matrix.
You may also call your local domestic violence program or service provider. Ask what types of financial relief may be available to you through a protection order.

• Supply your own copy of your credit report when applying for housing. That way, you may be able to avoid your new address from showing up on your credit report.
• If you are getting a roommate, consider having the utilities listed in their name. This will help limit where your contact information can be found.
Technology Concerns
• Your personal information may be online. You can find out how much with free and fee-based websites. You can search for your phone number and address on these sites: www.google.com, whitepages.com, www.veromi.com.
• Be cautious with the internet. This includes online applications and communicating with your landlord or mortgage company. Information sent over the Internet can be intercepted and read.
• Set up a news alert on www.google.com/alerts. It will notify you whenever your name, address or phone number are used on the Internet. Google collects and stores about four billion web pages.

Safety Planning
In addition to the strategies given above, there are other things to keep in mind while seeking independence from your abusive partner.
New Housing Search Considerations
If you leave, an abusive partner may use a credit report to find you. Large property-management firms tend to check credit histories through a credit bureau. Limiting your housing search to private property owners may help. They tend to work with the credit history you provide on your application. Tips:

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©2019 The Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence. All Rights Reserved.

MODULE 1 | Understanding Financial Abuse-Keeping Safe and Starting Over

• Contact your state or local domestic violence program. Through them, you can learn more about technology safety and privacy strategies. You can also visit www.nnedv.org and search “Safety Net Project.”
Workplace Safety
If it is safe, available and appropriate, consider the following:
• Provide your supervisor and company security with a copy of your protection order, if you have one.
• Provide your employer’s security and reception people with your partner’s photograph.
• Ask security to escort you to and from the parking lot or to public transportation.
• Screen your telephone calls.
• Consider changing your work schedule and travel patterns to and from work.
• Save threatening e-mails, voice mails, letters and gifts. If you choose to use the legal system, this evidence will be helpful. If you have a protection order, document problems. This will help you prove that your partner or ex-partner is violating the order.

• Request your workspace be moved to a more secure area or to another site if possible.
• Get a donated cell phone from your local domestic violence shelter. This will provide you with another way to contact help or emergency services, if needed.
Staying safe is of top importance during this difficult time.
Find information, support and guidance by contacting:
• National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233
• A domestic violence program in your community
They can help you move forward and gain financial independence. Plus, in every U.S. state and territory there is a coalition of domestic violence programs. They can help put you in touch with resources in your area. To find out more about these coalitions, go to www.nnedv.org.

©2019 The Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence. All Rights Reserved.

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MODULE 1 | Understanding Financial Abuse-Keeping Safe and Starting Over

Separation, Divorce and Child Support

The most important thing to do first is consult an attorney. Good legal advice is essential. And the right legal course of action is different for every person.
If you decide to leave, your partner may try to stop you from accessing financial information. Try to gather as much data as possible before meeting with an attorney. Include:
• Past income tax returns.
• One of your own pay stubs if you are working, and one of your partner’s paycheck stubs.
• Copies of your partner’s employee-benefit statement.
• Your wish list of the assets you would like to keep.
Before you meet with an attorney, make a list of your possessions. Include things such as your home, car and furniture. List these in three categories: 1) items that are yours, 2) items that are your partner’s and 3) items you bought while married.

consider cutting back on expenses. Or you may find an additional source of income. Different budgeting and money saving strategies may be helpful. They are addressed later in this curriculum.
Another important item to consider is insurance coverage. If you’re now covered under your partner’s health plan, you may be able to continue it. COBRA is a program that allows you to keep the same coverage for 18 months. However, COBRA can be quite expensive. If it is, you can request that the judge order your partner to be responsible for your children’s health insurance. It could be included in the divorce settlement. For more information about health insurance, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA), see Module 5.
Lastly, a divorce settlement includes a division agreement. This will include both assets (property) and liabilities (debt). Some of the common assets that must be divided include your home, savings, retirement plans and household items.

Next, determine your living expenses. It is likely your financial status will change dramatically after leaving your partner. Estimate your current living expenses. If you have children, include any money you will spend on them. You may not be able to maintain your current lifestyle. If so,

Pro Se Divorce
Some people who go through divorce file pro se. Pro se is a legal term. It means that one appears in court on her own. Someone who files pro se is responsible for her own legal representation. She does not have the benefit of an attorney.

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©2019 The Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence. All Rights Reserved.

MODULE 1 | Understanding Financial Abuse-Keeping Safe and Starting Over

The pro se divorce process may not be a safe choice for victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence is rooted in power and control. This could make it unsafe for a survivor of domestic violence to represent herself in a divorce. Her financial future, emotional well-being and the custody of any children are at stake.
Pro se divorces are typically best suited when domestic violence is not a factor. It works best when couples jointly agree on the conditions of the divorce. If you have children or property and have experienced any form of abuse, it’s best to work with an attorney.
Finding an Attorney
Finding an attorney with the right credentials is key. You can find legal counsel through several resources:
• Local Domestic Violence Program Contact a domestic violence program in your area. Some programs have an attorney on staff. Or they can give you a referral to an attorney who is familiar with divorce and domestic violence.
• State Bar Associations Your local bar association can tell you of attorneys who specialize in divorces cases. It may be able to provide information on whether the attorneys have been the subject of an ethical complaint or inquiry. You’ll want to avoid them.
• Attorney Referral Services For about $30, an attorney referral service will recommend someone who specializes in your type of case. A service may allow you to talk with an attorney for the first half hour at no charge. These services can be found online by searching for “Attorney Referral Services” or “Attorneys.”

• Clerk of the Court The Clerk of the Court is an officer of the court. The Clerk’s responsibilities include maintaining court records. In most jurisdictions, you can request an attorney referral list.
• Law Schools Some law schools provide free legal counsel. This is part of their student practice and is supervised by a licensed attorney.
• Recommendations Talk to your friends. Some of the most reliable referrals are from people you trust.
Most attorneys charge by the hour. Their rate is usually based on their experience. For some procedures, attorneys will often offer flat fees. A flat fee is a set amount for a specific action, such as a will or a simple transfer of property. However, divorce and custody are more complicated. They will most likely require a retainer (a single, upfront payment). Plus, there will be an hourly rate. This is the amount you will be charged per hour of work.
Usually, this type of arrangement is written out. It will state the specific terms of the agreement. Don’t be afraid to negotiate the terms. And don’t sign anything you don’t understand, even when working with an attorney.
Another fee arrangement is the contingency fee. It provides the attorney with a portion of any damages received by their client in settlement. This could be the settlement of a lawsuit. Or it could be when the judge or jury reaches a decision, or verdict, in a case.
A prepaid legal plan is another arrangement. In it, a participant (or employer) pays for future needed legal services. A prepaid legal plan is similar to a medical benefit plan. Participants pay

©2019 The Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence. All Rights Reserved.

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The Allstate Foundation Moving Ahead Curriculum