Divorce is a life-changing experience for any family. For the stay-at-home mom, the consequences of ending a marriage can be even more dramatic. Many stay-at-home moms believe they will be able to maintain their current lifestyle after a divorce. This is often not possible. With this in mind, we offer a few suggestions for stay-at-home moms to consider before initiating the divorce process.
Obtain Financial Records
Perhaps you are in the beginning stages of the divorce process, and you are still considering whether or not you want to move forward. One of the most important things for you to do is to establish a snapshot of your finances. You will want to make a personal copy of your financial records and important information. This includes assets as well as debts, and may include letters, emails, texts, photographs, recordings, home closing documents, mortgage information, automobile titles, non-retirement account statements, retirement account statements, tax returns and supporting documents, monthly bills, and credit card statements. You will want to keep the copies in a safe place, so you will have easy access to them.
Meet with a Financial Planner
Once you have a personal copy of all financial records in your estate, you may want to consult with a divorce attorney, before you meet with the financial planner, to discuss the potential benefits and protections of meeting with a financial planner through your divorce attorney. You will want to meet with a financial planner that is independent of your marital estate. A financial planner can quickly compile your financial information, to provide your legal team with a fair and accurate summary of the marital estate and monthly budget. The financial planner's purpose is not to leverage outcomes, but to provide a summary of your current financial situation. You will learn the value of marital assets, the balance of the marital debt, the net worth of your estate, and what the cost is to run the household each month. With this information, you may contemplate next steps, including the timing of a potential divorce filing, possible employment outside the home, and re-education possibilities.
Consider Division of Assets
Keep in mind that with divorce comes a division of assets. If your husband was the sole breadwinner and must now pay for a second residence, the monthly household income will be affected and, as such, so will the monies for monthly expenses. For example, your husband's income may not support both your current home and an additional residence, so other options may need to be considered, including employment outside the home and the sale of assets.
Learn About Alimony
Depending upon your state of residence, you may be entitled to alimony. States law varies considerably on the issue of alimony. In some states alimony may not be an option, and in others, the amount of alimony may be determined by the length of marriage. Furthermore, there may be limits upon the duration of the alimony after the divorce. In many states such as Texas, Florida and Maine, judges are given strict guidelines to follow. These laws are evolving as two income households become more prevalent. You should research your state's laws and get an idea of what amount of alimony you may be entitled to after divorce. An experienced attorney will know the laws of your jurisdiction.
Learn Child-Support and Domicile Restriction Laws
If you are awarded custody of the children, your child's father may be required to pay child support following a divorce. The amount will vary, depending on the state and the income level of the father. Child support does not typically cover all child-related expenses. You can work with your legal team to find out how much you can expect to receive each month. Knowing this information at the beginning of the legal process may be beneficial to you as you make plans for the future.
Many courts restrict where children can live after divorce. This is often referred to as a residence restriction or domicile restriction. In many jurisdictions, if a father continues to live in close proximity to the children after the divorce, the children will be required to live in a certain area. If the father moves outside of the designated area, the domicile restriction is usually lifted and the mother and children are free to move outside of the designated area. Every jurisdiction is different; therefore, it is important that you know the policies and laws of your jurisdiction before you file for divorce.
Make A Plan
Before you decide to move forward with a divorce, you will want to have a plan in place. Some states require a waiting period of a year or more, before a divorce can be finalized. This time of transition can be stressful for both you and your children. Often, the more time you dedicate to research and organization at the beginning of this process, the easier the transition will be for you and your family.
Visualize The Life You Want To Lead
If you decide to proceed with the divorce, you will be starting the next stage of your life. Think about how you will meet your financial obligations and where you will live. Many things will change for the better. Many things will be more challenging. We advocate visualizing what sort of life you want to lead when you are no longer married. This process helps you mentally prepare for this new stage in your life, and the challenges and joys you will face.