How to Prepare for Divorce: Divorce Advice for Stay-At-Home Moms
Preparing for a divorce is a lot more than just picking up the phone and calling an attorney. There are the emotional aspects, financial, legal, and, of course, there are parenting issues. It means figuring out what life is going to look like when it's all said and done and includes preparing your children for the transition. For the stay-at-home mom, there are additional concerns around income.
How to Prepare for Divorce for Stay-At-Home Moms
Talking to Your Kids About Divorce
When you realize that your marriage is over, it's normal to feel a variety of emotions. Over time, you'll experience all of the stages of grief. You'll be grieving not only the loss of your relationship but the loss of the dreams you shared and the life that you knew. Give yourself time to process each stage of grief throughout the process.
The Emotional Stages of Divorce:
The stages of grief include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Don't rush through these stages as feeling and processing each of them will help you move forward.
Have you felt like putting your head in the sand and acting like nothing is happening around you? That's denial. Denial is your psyche's way of protecting you from becoming emotionally overwhelmed. It's a useful coping mechanism, as long as it doesn't keep you from progressing onto the next stage.
When people are angry, they tend to lash out and blame. Keep in mind that it's completely normal. With that said, lashing out can do more damage than good. If you're looking for productive ways to release the anger without further damaging your relationship, consider physical activity. If you don't like to exercise, you may find writing angry letters to your spouse to get your feelings out to be helpful. You can always tear them up or burn them, but sometimes getting your emotions out of your head and down on paper can feel good. Of course, reaching out to a good friend who is willing to listen is always helpful.
If you are the initiator of the divorce, you may start to question your decision in the bargaining stage. It may also be the time in which your choice is confirmed in your mind. If you are not the initiator, this is a stage when you may try to convince your spouse to try and work things out. Your soon-to-be-ex's reaction to your bargaining may lead you to feelings of sadness or anger when you don't get the response that you're looking for. It's all part of the processing.
It's normal to go through a period of significant sadness as you grieve over your divorce. You may find yourself crying over a commercial or when a sad song comes on over the radio. It's the stage that everyone expects, and yet no one is truly prepared for. Make sure you surround yourself with good friends or begin attending a support group. It's important to know that you're not alone. If that's not enough, reach out to a counselor for therapy or a divorce coach for additional support.
At some point, you will come to realize that your marriage is indeed over and that nothing you do will change it. That doesn't necessarily mean that you're done feeling angry or sad, but it does mean that you have accepted the reality of your situation. Even if you are still dealing with feelings of grief, at this stage, you will no longer allow those feelings to hold you back from moving on.
It's helpful to know that grieving is not always a linear process. Instead, it's common for people to move back and forth between the stages. Depending on the nature of the situation, I find many of my divorcing clients spend quite a bit of time in the anger and depression phases. As you move through the emotions, know that you will move through at your own pace, in denial one week and filled with sadness the next. Eventually, you will get to the point of acceptance, though. The sooner you can get there, the easier it is to approach your decisions with a clear head.
Rediscover What Brings You Joy
Rediscovering yourself and what brings you joy is fundamental to rebuilding your life after divorce. It's hard to part from someone who once was a big part of your identity. However, you'll find that you can move on and discover new things in your life to bring you joy and happiness. You can find a new hobby at your church, within your community, or at home. Meetup offers a wide variety of groups with different interests. If you're having trouble making new connections, try out a group that shares your interests.
Anything you can do to shift your attention from the divorce will help. Finding things to enjoy will help you let go of the hurt and pain and refocus on something positive.
How to Prepare Financially for a Divorce
Most people have concerns about money when going through a divorce. However, I often see the most significant fear from stay-at-home moms who have depended on their spouse's income to support them.
Use the following tips to simplify the process and stay on track with your finances.
Open Your Own Bank Account
If you do not currently have a bank account in your name, now is the time to get one. Put money aside in preparation. If you plan to ask for a divorce, it's essential to be financially prepared for what may happen after you ask for the divorce. The other spouse can make it very difficult to access money in some cases. While you can work through the courts to get access, it won't happen overnight. Make sure that you have some money set aside to live on and pay attorney fees if you need to.
Take Care of Your Credit
Your credit score is vital for many reasons but will be especially crucial if you need to refinance your house as part of your settlement. The earlier you start taking control of your credit, the better off you'll be. Begin by requesting a copy of your credit report. Review it for accuracy, and if there are any inaccuracies, dispute each of them.
If you do not currently have a credit card account in your name only, open one. Begin making small purchases on the card and pay them off in full every month. This will help build your credit history if you don't have much of one.
If you already have a credit card in your name or other debts, make sure to keep making on-time payments to maintain a good credit score. It's easy to miss payments when going through a significant life transition. However, you'll find that a good credit score is essential not only to get approved for loans but also to get the best possible interest rate.
Organize Financial Documents
Organize your financial documents and determine what's missing. You'll need to collect everything with a dollar sign on it. Here's the list I usually start my clients with. I always let them know that some documents may not be relevant to their situation. I may also find that we need some additional documents as we get into their case. You may not have access to all the records on the list. If that's the case, do not stress. You can request them through discovery at a later date.
- Tax returns (last three years), including all supporting schedules and W-2's
- Pay stubs for each party
- Investment account statements
- Bank account statements
- Retirement account statements
- Policy statements for any life insurance and/or annuities
- Mortgage statements
- Other outstanding loan statements
- Credit card statements
- Social security estimates (available at www.ssa.gov)
- For any business owned, P&L for the current year and previous three years
Note: If you need help with this step, we walk you through how to create a divorce binder in our online course, "How to Prepare for Divorce." We'll show you how to organize a physical or cloud-based storage system with all of the necessary financial documents.
Related post: How to Stay Organized Throughout the Divorce Process
Establish Your Own Email Address
If you share an email with your spouse, establish your own personal email. Select a password that would not be easy for your spouse to guess. This will allow you to communicate with professionals as needed regarding your case without your spouse having access to your private information.
Identify a Secure Place for Mail Delivery
If you are still living with your spouse, you may want to open a post office box to have any mail sent that you don't want your spouse to have access to.
Participate in our Financial Navigation Program
Contact a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst to help you sort through the details of your financial life going forward. A CDFA is trained to help you navigate any money issues that come up before, during, and after your divorce and can save you a lot of frustration and money.
We offer a Financial Navigation Program, which includes a 60-minute 1:1 individualized session with a CDFA that will give you clarity regarding your options and next steps. From there, we can help you determine if additional support is needed and, if so, what that support will look like. Click her to learn more about our Financial Navigation Program. To prepare for your session, make a list of all your questions so that we can address as many as possible within the time allotted.
Create a Budget
Write down everything related to your income, expenses, and debt. It's important to mark a starting point by clearly stating what you have and what you need. Prioritize that list. What is a real need, and what is a desire? You will be surprised to discover that many things were acquired tastes, objects, or services that you do not need but that your partner liked. Give priority to everything that you feel is indispensable for you.
No matter the situation, the important thing is to be able to identify your expenses honestly. By doing so, you will be able to make changes as necessary. It's not always fun to see more expenses than income, but keep in mind that your current financial situation will be the same whether or not you know what you are spending money on. When you have those expenses identified, you can control where and how you spend your money. Trying to keep up a lifestyle that you cannot maintain blindly will be dangerous to the wellbeing of you and your family.
To improve your financial perception, try to see this process as a restructuring. Divorce can be financially liberating. It is true that you might have to get rid of certain things and that at the beginning you will need to invest to recover some goods. However, expenses and debts will also be reduced. It is only a matter of reorganizing, and in a short time, you will adapt to this new life stage.
Future Income: Alimony, Child Support, And?
Child and spousal support may be available to help you transition, but you are going to want to start thinking about more permanent income solutions.
Alimony for Stay-at-Home Moms
Laws regarding alimony (also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance in some states) differ from state-to-state. You are going to want to familiarize yourself with the laws in your state. Some states do offer a calculator to determine alimony. Others do not. In Ohio, where I live, there are numerous factors used to determine spousal support. The length of the marriage is an important factor to consider.
Related post: How much spousal support will I get?
Child Support for Stay-at-Home Moms
Each of the states has its own child support calculator. If you visit our Resources page, you'll see a list of child support resources for all of the states. You can get a rough idea of child support available to you by using online calculators.
Ongoing Income for Stay-at-Home Moms
Remember that alimony and child support are considered temporary solutions for income. Start thinking about how you would like to support yourself in the future.
- Does your schedule allow for a part-time job?
- Could you start a side business?
- Are you ready to return to work full-time?
- Do you need to further your education to get a job you'll love?
Consider your financial future ahead of time, and you'll save yourself a lot of long-term stress.
When it comes to the legal aspects of divorce, many people feel like they don't have many options. I think that's because they don't know what the options are. A good family law attorney will help you to understand your choices and help you to determine the best option for your situation.
Divorce or Dissolution
Divorce or dissolution? Which is right for you? Both are legal processes that end a marriage. A divorce is when one party files a formal legal complaint against the other. A dissolution is a joint petition filed with the court to request the termination of a marriage. The terms of the agreement are decided upon outside the courtroom.
I find that when most people think about divorce, they are thinking about the "movie version" where each party retains an attorney to battle out the divorce settlement in court. While that is certainly one option, most divorce cases settle outside the courtroom. Still, many divorces are handled in an adversarial process, working through the spouses' two attorneys.
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Divorce
Thanks to the internet, Do-It-Yourself divorces are growing in popularity. Like any divorce, the online process involves settling the terms, completing paperwork, and filing it with the court. I've seen a lot of costly mistakes associated with people filing their own divorce, and I really wouldn't risk it with children involved. If you do choose to go this route, I encourage you to at least have an attorney review your documents before submitting them to the court.
In Cuyahoga County, OH, where I live, the court offers a help center. If you are filing for your own divorce, I encourage contacting your local court to see if they provide any assistance with the paperwork.
Litigation is what most people think of when they think of divorce. It's when both parties hire an attorney (although they can represent themselves), and they use the court to determine the outcome of their divorce settlement. It tends to be the most costly option, and your entire case does become a matter of public record. Still, for some, it is a necessary option if agreements cannot otherwise be made.
A collaborative divorce is a divorce process in which each party is represented by an attorney that has been trained in the collaborative process. Rather than taking a specific position, the parties and their attorneys work together to come up with solutions that are in everyone's best interests. There is an agreement not to go into litigation. If the collaborative divorce doesn't work out, then the parties can choose to go for litigation but are required to hire new attorneys that were not involved in the initial collaborative agreement. That's a big incentive for everyone to keep moving forward toward an agreement.
As part of the collaborative divorce process, neutral specialists are frequently consulted to provide relevant information so the parties can make informed decisions. For example, a mental health professional could be asked to give advice relating to the welfare of the children. The collaboration may also involve a Financial Neutral to provide financial education and analysis around key financial issues.
In divorce mediation, a neutral third party (the mediator) facilitates the negotiations between the parties to reach a divorce settlement. Mediation is a more amicable way to end a marriage and is generally more financially prudent with marital assets. There are other benefits of mediation, as well. It's a confidential process, and you and your soon-to-be-ex do not give control of the process over to the courts.
While I am a big proponent of mediation, there are disadvantages as well. For example, mediation is not a legal proceeding. You will not have the benefit of "pre-trial discovery" in which a judge compels both parties to disclose financial records. If you have an angry spouse, he or she will have the opportunity to hide assets.
If there was bullying or intimidation in the marriage, you might feel railroaded during a mediation procedure if your spouse attempts to control the situation. You will need to speak up for yourself.
Ultimately, you'll have to decide whether divorce mediation is right for you.
Related post: How to Ask Your Spouse to Mediate Your Divorce
Related post: How Long Does Divorce Mediation Take?
Related post: The Best Kept Secret of Mediation
Finding the Right Attorney
When selecting an attorney for your case, do not go with the lowest cost solution. Someone who specializes in family law may cost more on an hourly basis but will be much more knowledgeable about the relevant laws for your case. Also, they are likely going to be more efficient in handling your case. Thus, a higher hourly rate does not necessarily mean a higher overall cost.
When engaging an attorney, start by asking for recommendations from friends and professionals in your life. Here are some questions to ask at your first appointment:
- How often do you practice family law?
- How do you charge clients?
- What can I do to control the cost of my case?
- Can you give me an idea of what my case will cost?
- Can you describe the typical process from beginning to end?
- How long does the whole process take?
- Who in your office will work on my case?
- How do you communicate with clients (mode and frequency)?
- How are negotiations handled?
- Are there temporary orders that I should seek?
Talking to Your Kids About Divorce
A divorce can be a stressful time for any family, but communication is essential. Children need to understand that they aren't responsible for what is taking place. They also need to realize that both parents love them and want to be a part of their lives. This can help children to deal with the many changes that will take place with a divorce.
Show a United Front
It's a good idea for parents to sit down with children to discuss the issue of divorce. Some parents choose to do this with all of the children at one time. Others find it is better to do so with each child one at a time. This is often due to age differences as well as the individual personalities of each child.
The responsibility of telling the children about the divorce should never fall on the shoulders of only one parent. A united front needs to be displayed from the start. The children will feel more secure hearing the information from both of their parents rather than just one of them.
Children don't need to know all of the details of why their parents are divorcing. It shouldn't turn into a blame game in which each parent tries to get the children to take their side in the matter. What children need to know is that their parents won't be staying together and how that will affect them.
Give children time to take in and process the information about the divorce. Even though they likely have an idea that things aren't going well in the home, they may be shocked by the idea of a divorce. Let them know they can come to either parent with questions they have.
Provide Ongoing Support
It can be a good idea to have another meeting a couple of weeks later with both parents and all the children or each child one on one. That will give the children some time to deal with their thoughts about the divorce. They may be more ready to talk about it now than they were when you first told them about it.
Be ready to offer your children more support during the divorce process. Some children act out in anger because of it. Others may become withdrawn due to their emotions. Their needs must be addressed. Unfortunately, many parents are too wrapped up in their own feelings over a divorce to provide their children with the support they need.
Older children may press for more information as to why the divorce is taking place. Parents need to have a plan of action as to how they will handle such questions. If one of the adults has been having an affair, you may decide it is best not to disclose that information to the children. This is a personal choice that you need to make before you sit down to talk about the divorce with the children, though.
Be Prepared Before You Have the Talk
Parents need to come to terms with the concept of divorce before the children are approached. The children need to be reassured that they will be fine through all of it. That can't happen if they get the impression that their parents aren't okay with what is going to be taking place.
You'll need to be able to share some basic plans with the children as well. For example, you might need to tell them what the living arrangements will be. You may also need to let them know when the changes will be taking place. This way, they can start to prepare for what is ahead of them.
When children are involved in what is going on with a divorce, they tend to deal with it better. They don't feel like they are just being thrown into the middle of what is going on. A divorce is never easy for anyone, especially when children are involved. Yet it can be a process everyone gets through if you are willing to put your differences aside and work together to come up with a good solution for everyone.
Here's how we can help you...
We get that divorce can feel really hard and leave you with a lot of questions about how to handle your finances. After all, this is the reason Leah Hadley founded Great Lakes Divorce Financial Solutions in the first place.
After her divorce, she found herself stressed and overwhelmed about how to navigate life on her own with three kids and a new financial situation.
Helping families overcome this challenge is why we do what we do.
Whether you've never had to manage money before, or you're a master at investing, we are here to support you as your financial expert before, during, and after your divorce.
What our clients love most about working with us is that we're able to help them avoid costly financial mistakes and achieve the financial stability they need to plan for the future.
We are here to help you with that, too. Learn more about our guidance no matter where you are in the divorce process.
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