Divorce Advice for Stay-At-Home Moms
During divorce, is any position more disadvantageous than that of a stay-at-home mom? Having been away from the workforce for an extended amount of time, many women lack access to the option of being able to finance their newly single status, with kids in tow. This disadvantage is apparent as soon as the divorce process begins, so it is of critical importance to get organized as quickly as possible. The faster you can get your affairs in order, the more secure your financial future could become.
Since an overwhelming volume of tasks need to be completed, where should stay-at-home moms begin? You will want to consider the following ten steps before you do anything else to prepare for your pending divorce.
1. Get your documents together.
Documentation will play a large part in working through a favorable divorce settlement with your spouse. Attorneys, mediators, and certified divorce financial analysts may request any number of different documents, in order to get a clear picture of your current marital finances.
You want to make sure that you have copies of important documents that demonstrate your financial status, including:
- W2s and tax returns from previous years,
- Income statements, including paystubs
- Bank statements
- Insurance policies
- Details about loans and mortgages
- Investment accounts
If you plan on being the one who files for divorce, ensure that you have copies of the items above, prior to filing. If you are divorcing a controlling spouse, obtaining these documents could be more difficult. Therefore, to gain access to the information you need, you will need to come up with a ruse, such as preparing for a future health emergency.
2. Gain access to funds.
It is no secret that divorce can be a costly experience. If you hire an attorney, a certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA), a mediator, or any other type of counsel, it comes with a price tag. Since stay-at-home moms frequently lack access to marital funds, a critical first step is finding a way around this problem.
When you lack regular access to your marital accounts, you may need to secretly stash cash away from the eyes of your spouse. One sneaky method is requesting cash back at the grocery store. Another is storing up money on hidden gift cards, which may give you the financial advantage you need.
You may also want to take advantage of learning about your marital finances while you can. Find a way to gain the most realistic picture of your current finances, which could include looking at bank statements, tax returns, or any other financial documents you find lying around.
3. Craft a new budget.
Chances are that you have some idea about what your expenses are as a married couple. Mortgage (or rent) payments, utility bills, phone bills, and all of the other necessities of daily life now need to reflect two separate households.
In this stage, the ultimate goal is crafting a realistic expectation of your monthly expenses. How much will you need to earn to make ends meet as a newly single mom?
Remember, in all likelihood, child support will not cover all of your expenses for the month.
4. Hire a team of qualified professionals.
Especially for a stay-at-home mom, it is important that you receive everything you are entitled to, so you do not want to leave it to chance. You need to begin assembling a top-notch team, in order to ensure that you receive just what you need for your upcoming single life. Before you begin filing for divorce, you can begin researching the professionals you want to use, even if you hold off on hiring them until the last possible minute.
Begin by searching for the perfect divorce attorney. Make sure that you select someone who is personable, attentive to details, responsive to your inquiries, sharp, and experienced in divorce or family law. You will not want to work with someone who dabbles in all areas of the law, because they will not have the experience and the knowledge you need to get everything you might be entitled to.
If you can, try to schedule a meeting with the attorney before you make a final decision. You can use this time to survey the office and talk with other staff members.
Hiring the right attorney is a hard process, but it can pay huge dividends and get you what you need. The best advice is to follow your instinct. If you get the feeling that the lawyer is not knowledgeable or easy to work with, he or she is probably not the right attorney for you.
You should also hire a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. This professional can help you manage your new finances, create a much-needed budget, and make wise decisions about splitting the marital assets.
Finally, it is always a good idea to add a therapist to your divorce team. You may visit this person on your own, or he or she could provide a safe place for your children to work out any concerns and fears they have about the divorce. Establishing emotional stability and well-being can be extremely important for everyone throughout the divorce process.
5. Decide what is most important to you during a settlement.
Take the time to list the items, assets, and other details that are most important to you in the divorce settlement. They should include tangible items, such as sentimental belongings and family heirlooms, as well as important issues regarding visitation, custody rights, and co-parenting solutions.
By creating a list upfront, you will be able to focus on the bigger picture, instead of getting caught up in the minor details of the negotiation process. When you have stress-free time to consider which items are important to you, it removes some of the emotion from the negotiations.
You may want to consider making a list of the items that will probably be important to your spouse as well. Then you will have a brief opportunity to plan for possible solutions that might satisfy him or her during the negotiation process.
6. Know what the marital home is worth.
Many stay-at-home moms want to keep the marital home for the sentimental value, or to maintain the façade of normal routines for the children.
Unfortunately, this choice may not always be practical. Based on your new budget, you could find that keeping the marital home is not realistic.
To determine the home’s actual value, have it appraised.. Using this essential information, you can start planning the amount of money that p you and your spouse will need to pay off your mutual debt or split up the funds, so that you can start over in your single lives.
Look at selling the house as an opportunity to downsize. After all, you will have fewer occupants, so you could potentially purchase a smaller home.
You should also look into the detailed expenses associated with maintaining the marital home. When you and your spouse are maintaining separate households, could you actually afford to cover the mortgage of the marital home with your current budget?
At the end of the day, there is only so much money to share between the two of you. In order to live more comfortably, a couple that has already been stretched thin financially might need to sell the marital home,.
7. Get a handle on your credit.
If you’ve been a stay-at-home mom for a long time, there is the chance that you have not been actively using your name and information to apply for credit. This situation can spell trouble, when it comes time to make another major purchase that will require financing.
Therefore, find out what your current credit score by using a free online tool such as Credit Karma. Your credit score indicates the loans and interest rates that you will be eligible for when you apply for a new mortgage an auto loan, or even a lease on an apartment.
A low credit score can be improved, but it will take time to do so effectively. The first step is to open a small line of credit in your own name. Maybe you will be able to find a lender at your local bank who is willing to issue you a small line of credit. You can use this card to purchase groceries, gas, or other small items, before paying off the balance at the end of the month. But remember, experts recommend never using more than 30% of your available credit limit.
Other key ways to improve your credit score include paying down some of your debt and ensuring that the bills get paid on time. Lowering your credit utilization makes you a less risky prospect for lenders, and it can significantly boost your credit score. To raise this number a little faster, you may choose to pay off some of your smaller student loans or credit card bills.
The biggest indicator of your credit score is timely payments. If you repeatedly miss payments or make them late, you will have poor credit. Whenever possible, sign up for auto-draft, or set an alarm on your phone that reminds you to pay the bill each month. It takes a long time to rebuild your credit score, but it starts with taking small steps right now.
8. Plan to return to work.
This option seems like an unavoidable topic for stay-at-home moms who are awaiting the finalization of their divorce. Returning to work gives you access to your own funds, and it grants you the financial freedom to cover the expenses of caring for your children.
What could you do to be more employable?
Review your employable skills, even if you have taken an extended leave of absence from the workforce. Then update your resume with your new skills. If you have a degree from many years ago, you may want to consider taking additional classes to update your skill set.
Then you should start the arduous search for careers that pay well and lend flexibility to your status as a single mom.
Alternatively, you may want to investigate positions that allow you to work from home.
If you have already crafted a detailed budget, then you know what your expected expenses are at the end of each month. Allow this final figure to guide your decision about selecting the right career for the next phase of your life. Do not forget that the benefits offered by potential employers can also play a role in your overall income. For example, these benefits could help replace health insurance from a spouse’s employer, or start a personal retirement fund.
9. Consider requesting temporary alimony.
A long-term marriage that has allowed you to be a stay-at-home mom for an extended period of time may offer alimony on a temporary basis. This temporary alimony or short-term support can give you some financial breathing room while you search for gainful employment. It may also help cover a greater portion of expenses while you return to school, and search for a long-term career and a new residence.
On a long-term basis, alimony is typically only granted for spouses who were stay-at-home moms for a very long period of time. After such a time period, a judge may declare that the stay-at-home mom is past the point of being able to learn new skills or find gainful employment outside of the home.
10. Get yourself organized before you begin.
When you have been a stay-at-home mom for years, entering the workforce and creating a new household can be chaotic and stressful. Therefore, if you are the one preparing to file for divorce, you need to ensure that you organize yourself as quickly as possible. Have you had time to prepare, or have you been blindsided by the news of divorce? Either way, organization is a key component to establishing financial security moving forward.
Do not allow yourself to get swept up in the emotional aspect of your divorce. You will need to begin preparing for the upcoming ordeal of separating one household into two. Sooner rather than later, start considering what you would need to do to care for your family as a single mom.
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