Getting divorced against my wishes in a foreign country where I didn’t know the process and am not fluent in the language was daunting to say the least.
I’m of two minds about the Denmark divorce process. On one hand, it’s extremely straightforward, quick, and affordable. On the other hand, I think it’s a little too easy to get divorced in Denmark. I’m of the opinion that the American divorce process is a racket that makes an already stressful situation worse and I don’t believe that people should have to stay married just because the divorce process is too complicated or expensive. But should you really be able to get a quickie divorce online for less than $100?
Divorced Online – The Denmark Divorce Process
Our Denmark divorce was done completely online and cost about $60 (350 kr.); there’s an upcharge of about $80 (490 kr.) and a separate process for changing my name back to my maiden name. Denmark may be the only country where it’s harder to get married than it is to get divorced!
All Denmark divorces are no-fault and you don’t have to give a reason. Denmark divorce law dictates a straight 50/50 division of assets unless there’s a prenup stating otherwise. If both parties agree to the divorce it becomes final within a few weeks. If a Denmark divorce is contested, there’s a six month waiting period after which the divorce is automatically granted if the filing party hasn’t rescinded. As far as I understand, the child support provisions in Denmark divorce law also follow clear-cut income guidelines. There’s little point in lawyering up for a Denmark divorce.
The day his lordship initiated the online divorce filing, I received an email notification to go online and confirm that I was aware of the filing and agreed. Due to my sketchy Danish skills he’d graciously offered his assistance, which I’d begrudgingly accepted. So late one December night, he took a break from watching YouTube videos long enough to look over my shoulder as I digitally signed the papers for the divorce I didn’t want. A few minutes later he was back at his computer eating chips and laughing as I fell apart in the next room.
I’d initiated my first divorce. I’d wanted to move to Denmark and my husband didn’t. I knew that if I didn’t go, I’d regret it forever. There’s no doubt in my mind that I would’ve become resentful and that staying would’ve just prolonged the inevitable. We’d met when we were barely 20 and had just become too different over the next 15 years. We parted as friends and it was what I wanted… actually what I really wanted was for him to move to Denmark with me and for us to have an amazing adventure together. But that wasn’t him. And I accepted that. And so did he. I sobbed for months. Except for the day my grandfather died and that godawful Thursday in July, I don’t think I’ve ever cried so violently before or since. I was heartbroken over making an impossible choice and no part of me could’ve ever eaten chips and laughed in the next room knowing that I’d just launched an emotional hand grenade into the middle of this man’s peaceful life. I still think of myself as a selfish bitch because of it and there’s rarely been a day that it doesn’t occupy my thoughts, but I also know I made the right choice. I’ll always love him for letting me go so selflessly. Sometimes I think this divorce is my karma for that one.
A week after I’d signed the divorce filing, I received another email. My situational Danish is good, but I’m not fluent and I find it difficult to follow unfamiliar topics like the ins and outs of the Denmark divorce process. I couldn’t completely understand the email and Google translate didn’t help. I thought I had to physically sign something and waited for his lordship to demand my signature. But he never mentioned it. A couple of weeks later I finally had the chance to run the email past a Dane who told me that the divorce was final and that the page I thought needed to be signed was actually the Denmark divorce decree (which is also available in English upon request).
My Almost Useless Prenup
Shortly before we were married, I’d paid off the majority of his lordship’s mortgage. At that point we’d drafted a prenup stating that should we split I’d get back my full investment, plus a certain amount of equity for each month I lived in the apartment. It also stipulated that I’d get to keep my car, jewelry, etc. and that any other assets acquired during the marriage would be split 50/50.
Unfortunately, though the prenup had been signed and witnessed, it was never filed. I didn’t know that it had to be filed in order to be valid. The people at Aarhus’ free legal help office and the lawyer I’d consulted looked into every possible way of getting it filed before his lordship filed for the divorce, but there was no way to file it without his digital signature. It didn’t matter that he’d physically signed it with a witness. It had to be filed online or else it wasn’t legally binding.
I could either tell him about the filing and count on him to honor his agreement or I could gamble on being cashed out before he discovered this loophole. I took the latter option.
When he’d told me he was having our construction zone of an apartment valued, I was adamant that since it couldn’t be sold in its current state that I wanted half of what we’d paid for it. He’d insisted that because it was now a half-finished disaster area, it “wasn’t fair” of me (look who’s talking about fair!) to expect to get half of what we’d paid for it and that we’d go according to the realtor’s valuation. Again, Denmark divorce law has clear guidelines for this situation, so the apartment was valued at what we’d paid, plus a 6% market increase, plus what we’d already invested in restoration work, minus what it would cost to make it functional (i.e., he couldn’t deduct for a kitchen renovation because the kitchen was functional).
His greed and arrogance bit him in the ass :)
By some miracle I got out with exactly what was stated in the prenup. Somewhere along the line he’d found out that the prenup wasn’t legally binding because one evening after a particularly obnoxious email exchange regarding a Louis Vuitton briefcase, two designer lamps, and a designer clock, he sent me a carefully crafted email in which he dropped this “info bomb” on me and threatened to go after my car and a few other minor assets.
I could practically see him wringing his tiny hands over his keyboard as he chose his words. According to him, he’d “known all along that the prenup wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on” but he’d decided to honor it out of the kindness of his heart. Bullshit! If he’d known, he would’ve extorted every last kroner he was legally entitled to.
I wrote back, “I know and that’s why I didn’t ask for spousal support :)” And not another word was said or written about that.
I let him have the Louis Vuitton briefcase, one of the lamps, and the clock. I also let him keep his vintage Patek Philippe watch.
A Cautionary Tale
Fortunately, I’m not at a huge disadvantage after this divorce. When this first went down, well-meaning friends asked about alimony, how I was going to manage, and whether I was going to “be allowed” to keep my jewelry.
“Self-employed” isn’t always a euphemism for “lady of leisure.” Despite having a PhD, an Associate Professor paying child support for two kids doesn’t have a ton of disposable income and in light of the lifestyle he’d become accustomed to, he was more likely to need alimony than to pay alimony. And finally, I paid for every piece of jewelry I own so of course I “got” to keep all of the sparkly things!
Why wasn’t anyone asking me the same questions about his lordship’s bespoke clothes, Louis Vuitton bags, Tiffany cufflinks, Patek Philippe watch, and platinum wedding ring? What about the humungous mortgage he had to take in order to hold onto his ego-sized apartment?
My point here is that no matter how sure you are that you’ve found Prince Charming and no matter how in love and committed you are, always make sure you can take care of yourself. And always double and triple check that you’ve covered your ass. I was too trusting and this could’ve ended very badly for me. Fortunately I’m ambitious and had enough good karma banked that I came out relatively unscathed, and much wiser. I’ll recover, but I narrowly skirted disaster.
His lordship is almost completely out of my life. Once last year’s taxes have been settled and my accountant values my company, I’ll transfer half of its 2017 valuation to the above-mentioned asshole. Then I’ll open a very nice bottle of Champagne to celebrate the passing of last money he’ll ever see from me.
This time it’ll be one glass… and pink.
P.S. He’d “presumed” that I’d be changing back to my maiden name. Not on my dime. My luggage is monogrammed with my married initials and I don’t care either way. That said, I did love his family.