Divorce is one of the most difficult moments a person can go through in life, as it marks the breakup of a family, the end of a partnership, and involves weighty emotional and financial issues. Divorce can be an incredibly stressful time for a stay-at-home mom who has dedicated the past few years to raising kids and taking care of the family. By taking time away from her work life, she may be at a disadvantage as it may be difficult to return to work or relearn certain job skills to make her competitive in the workforce again.
If you are a stay-at-home mom, before deciding to end your marriage, you should take some preliminary steps.
1. Weigh the pros and cons.
Sit down and write a list of your reasons for ending your marriage and for staying in your marriage. Study the list; put it away and review it in a few days and see if you still agree that the cons outweigh the pros.
2. Take a financial accounting of your household.
Gather all of your account statements – bank accounts, retirement accounts, mortgage statements, and credit card bills – so you will have accurate information regarding your assets and liabilities. This includes W2s and income tax returns from at least the previous three years, income statements including pay stubs, insurance policies, bank statements, details about loans and mortgages, and investment accounts. This will help the attorney you hire understand your financial quality of life over the past few years to ensure that a divorce does not keep you from providing the same financial well-being to you and your children moving forward.
3. Gain access to marital funds.
You will need access to your marital bank accounts to pay for the finances of divorce. Hiring an attorney to represent you is critical so that you can secure your lifestyle after the process has been completed. If you lack access to a joint bank account, you will need to create a divorce fund from savings or secure a credit card where you can make payments for the representation you need.
4. Write up a bare-bones budget.
Find out what is your income and what are your absolute necessary expenses to see if you can afford the separation. Take the time to sit down one day and realistically draw up a budget based on how much is spent monthly on food, clothing, a mortgage on the house, utility bills, phone bills, and other necessities. This will create an outline of what is to be expected to keep supporting you and your kids monthly.
5. Ask the court for temporary support.
If you cannot afford to support yourself through employment, you will need to ask the court for temporary support. If a judge determines that you have been at home for an extended period and cannot return to work right away because you do not have immediate skills, he/she will request that your ex-spouse give temporary spousal maintenance to maintain the status quo lifestyle you have been accustomed to over the years. However, you cannot rely on a specific sum in advance, so it makes sense to begin trimming your budget to the bare minimum just in case the spousal support awarded is lower than you anticipated.
6. Find out the fair market value of your marital home.
Although you may want to continue living in the marital home for sentimental value to you and your kids, a divorce already stretches you and your spouse financially. It is a good idea to have the house appraised and to know how much it is worth. In this way, if the budget needs to be limited, you can always sell the property and downsize to keep paying the bills for necessary items.
7. Learn about your credit.
Do you know anything about your credit? You can find out your credit score on sites such as annualcreditreport.com. Having a good credit score will allow lenders to feel more confident in lending the funds you need for a new mortgage for a house, a car loan, etc. One way to improve your credit score is to pay off credit cards and student loans. Remember, on credit cards you should never use more than thirty percent of your available credit limit. Also, always pay bills on time, so you do not accumulate an interest fee and a ding to your credit score.
8. Plan to return to work.
Securing a job gives you a chance to set up an individual bank account and affords you the financial freedom you need to cover extra expenses. Make a resume with your most up-to-date skills, post it online on job sites such as Indeed, and go on interviews in various industries. If you have already made a budget for yourself, you will know what salary to aim for at the end of each month.
9. Write up a custody plan.
Since you have one or more children, you need to come up with a custody plan. Ideally, if your family can work as a unit, your children should have equal access to both parents, but the type of plan that leads to that can take different forms. You should decide which schedule best fits your lifestyle needs with you back in the workforce.
10. Plan your place to stay.
If you plan on vacating the marital home, be sure you have a place to stay, one that would work for the children, and one that you can afford.
11. Be smart about how you behave.
Once you start down the path of divorce, all your actions, from during the marriage until the date of your final judgment, will factor into what the court will decide to do on financial and custody issues. If you behave badly, it could cost you.
12. Hire a team of qualified professionals to assist you.
By finding the right divorce attorney to represent you, you can come to court prepared to know that you have someone there who understands your needs and where you are coming from. When interviewing a few attorneys to hire, it is essential to look for someone who has experience, understands what you are communicating, and has a good reputation of winning settlements in favor of the client’s requests.
Should you need the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney or child custody attorney, or have questions about your situation, know that we are here to help and ready to discuss those questions with you.