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For some people, divorce is a welcome freedom from a toxic relationship. For others, it’s a sad turn of events from the happiness that once was there. And for your kids, it’s likely even harder.
As a stay at home mom with little or no income, you may now be faced with figuring out how to make ends meet as a single parent. You may not have the money rolling in that you once did.
But don’t let that discourage you. You still have plenty of options. You will get through it, and this too shall pass. In the meantime, here’s some stay at home mom divorce advice that’s both encouraging and helpful.
Keep these things to keep in mind as you tread some unfamiliar waters.
1. There are four main stages of preparation
As you begin to plan for the months ahead, keep in mind that there are four main things you need to prepare for. You’ll need to prepare legally, financially, and emotionally, as well as talk to your children.
None of these will be easy, but there are some steps you can take to make each a little more seamless.
2. Familiarize yourself with the emotional stages of divorce
You’ll go through all of the emotional stages of grief during your divorce. Everyone processes these stages differently, so remember that you may stay in one stage longer than the others. You also won’t be able to predict how long it will take you to fully process the situation, so give yourself some grace.
Denial will have you wishing you could pretend like none of it is happening. It’s your mind’s way of protecting you. It’s an attempt to avoid getting emotionally overwhelmed.
While it’s a helpful coping mechanism, it shouldn’t keep you from processing your anger.
Anger is the second stage of grief, and may have you lashing out at loved ones or desperately trying to find someone else to blame. This is normal, but be aware that it can do more harm than good.
You can use physical activity to process the anger or try getting your emotions out on paper. It may help to write angry letters to your spouse and then rip them up or burn them. Imagine your emotions being consumed by the flames.
You can also always reach out to a friend who is willing to listen and support you.
Bargaining is common for both the initiator of the divorce and the other party. If you initiated it, you may reach this stage and begin to question whether you made the right choice. It could also be the stage at which you are never more sure of your decision.
If you were not the initiator, you may want to convince your spouse to work things out. If you don’t get the response you’re looking for, it could lead to more feelings of sadness or anger, but it’s still all part of the process.
Depression is a normal period of sadness that allows you to grieve for your ending marriage. You may cry at unexpected times. You are likely expecting the stage itself, but you may not ever truly be prepared for it.
Surround yourself with friends or a support group. You need to know now more than ever that you’re not alone.
Eventually, you’ll reach a point of acceptance. You’ll realize your marriage is over and there’s nothing you can do to change it. You’re not done being angry or sad, but you can finally accept your new reality.
If you’re still dealing with feelings of grief, they’re not holding you back from moving on any longer.
Your journey is going to be different than even you might expect, and grieving isn’t always linear. You can move back and forth between these stages at your own pace, but you will eventually reach acceptance.
3. Find joy
You’ve been married for some time now, and you probably have room to grow and discover who you are again. Rebuilding your life after a divorce not only allows you some time to find joy, but finding joy is essential.
Your spouse was a huge part of your identity, so it’s time to find new things that make you happy. It may be a hobby, a church group, community service, or something completely different.
This can help you shift attention from the divorce to something else that you enjoy. It can help you let go of your pain and find something more positive in your new life.
4. Open your own bank account
Preparing financially for a divorce is one of the scariest parts. The first step should be to open your own bank account. Start putting some money aside to prepare. If you’re going to ask for the divorce, you need to be in a good financial position to do so.
Your spouse may make it difficult for you to access money. You can work through court to get access, but it won’t happen quickly, and you’ll need to set something aside to get through in the meantime.
5. Get your own email address
Much like a bank account, if you don’t have an email address of your own, now is the time to get one. You’ll want a secure password on an account where you can communicate privately with lawyers and other professionals without your spouse seeing it.
6. Set up your own mail delivery
Once again, you’ll want a place where you can access mail that your spouse can’t see. If you are still living together, you may want to get a post office box for any mail you don’t want to receive at home.
You could also use an alternate address like a parent, grandparent, or friend, if they’re willing to receive mail for you.
7. Look at your credit
There are plenty of things that will happen in the divorce. You may have to refinance your home, get your own cell phone or utilities, or purchase your own vehicle. You’ll need to understand your credit report and take control of it.
You can obtain a free copy and review it for accuracy. If there is something incorrect on your report, you’ll want to dispute it.
You can also build credit by opening a credit card in your name only. Make small purchases and pay it off in full each month.
Keep making on time payments to any credit cards or debts you currently have in your name to maintain good credit.
As you go through this life transition, it can be hard to keep up or remember, but it’s essential for getting approved for loans at a good interest rate.
8. Organize your documents
Gather any financial documents you have. They may not be relevant to your situation, but it’s important to be prepared. If you don’t have access to these documents, you can request them during discovery later. Here’s a list to get you started:
- Pay stubs
- Three years of tax returns
- Bank account statements
- Investment account statements
- Retirement account statements
- Mortgage statements
- Life insurance or annuity statements
- Credit card statements
- Outstanding loan statements
- Social security estimates
- P&L statements for businesses owned
9. Consider your future income, including alimony and child support
Every state has different laws when it comes to alimony. You may be able to calculate your spousal support based on the length of your marriage.
Every state also has its own child support calculator. You’ll be able to use an online calculator to get a rough estimate of how much you may get.
As a stay at home mom, you’re going to want to remember that these are temporary income solutions. While you may be able to get child and spousal support, it’s never too early to think about something more permanent.
You could look at part time jobs that accommodate your schedule, start a side business, return to work full time, or consider some remote opportunities.
10. Make a budget
Keep track of all of your income, expenses, and debt. Make sure it’s clear what you have and what you need by prioritizing the list. There are things you need like food, but there also may be things you used to have that you can no longer afford, like Netflix.
You may even find that there are things you don’t really care about having, but it was a must for your spouse.
It’s important to be able to identify true expenses honestly so you can make any necessary changes. While it’s not fun to look at your expenses next to your income, your current financial situation doesn’t have to dictate your future.
You can control where and how you spend your money so you can take care of yourself and your children without any help.
This is a restructuring process. You may have to get rid of some expenses, but your debt could also be reduced.
11. Meet with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
If you need help with your finances, most attorneys have financial analysts that can help you figure out the details. They’re trained to look at your money issues and they have seen the questions that come up during a divorce.
You can save some money and frustration if you take advantage of this type of support. Make sure you note all of your questions in advance of your meeting so you can be sure to get them all answered during your session.
12. Decide between divorce and dissolution
Many people don’t think they have options, simply because they don’t know what the options are. But if you find a food attorney skilled in family law, they’ll help you navigate your choices to find the best option for you.
Both divorce and dissolution are legal processes. When you file a formal legal complaint against your spouse, it’s called divorce. However, if you both file a joint petition with the court to request a termination of your marriage, it’s called a dissolution.
You can agree to the terms of your divorce or dissolution outside of court, but sometimes, divorce ends up in court because it’s simply not as amicable.
A Do-It-Yourself divorce involves completing paperwork online and filing it with the court, but when children are involved, there’s too much at risk. As a stay at home mom, it’s beneficial to consult an attorney for help.
13. Be prepared for litigation
This is the part that most people think of when they think of divorce. It doesn’t always end this way, but if you struggle to settle the terms of your divorce outside of court, you may end up in a courtroom.
If you feel comfortable, you can represent yourself, but many people choose to hire a family law attorney.
This is a costly option and your case will be a matter of public record, but if it’s what’s right for you, it’s worth the cost to make sure you get it settled the way you need.
14. Consider a collaborative divorce
This process involves attorneys, but these attorneys are trained to collaborate for the betterment of every party. They don’t take a specific position. Instead, you, your spouse, and both attorneys will meet together to find solutions that are in everyone’s best interest.
You will enter into an agreement not to go to litigation. It doesn’t mean that litigation isn’t an option if you can’t work things out, but it does mean that if you decide to go to litigation, you each have to hire new attorneys that weren’t involved in the collaborative process.
This is a good incentive for everyone to continue with the agreement, because it will cost even more money in the end if you don’t.
Sometimes, neutral specialists consult on the case to offer relevant information so everyone can make informed decisions. You may use a mental health professional or a financial expert.
15. Divorce mediation is another option
This is a negotiation between parties and involves the help of a neutral third party. It’s generally more amicable and financially responsible, especially if you have marital assets. You won’t have to give control to the courts, either.
However, it’s not a legal proceeding. You won’t have a pre-trial discovery, and if your spouse is angry, they have the opportunity to hide assets. They can also bully you during the mediation, which means you’ll need to be comfortable standing up for yourself.
16. Pick the right attorney
You shouldn’t always go with the cheapest solution. A family law specialist may cost more per hour, but they’ll be more knowledgeable about the laws that pertain to your case. They’re also going to be more efficient. A higher hourly rate doesn’t always mean a higher overall cost.
Here are some questions you can ask up front:
- How do you charge?
- How often do you practice?
- How long have you been practicing?
- Can you estimate how much my case will cost?
- How can I control my cost?
- Can you describe the entire process for me?
- How long will it take?
- How do you communicate with clients and how often?
- Who in your office is working on my case?
- How are the negotiations handled?
- Should I seek any temporary orders?
17, Present a united front
Talking to your kids about divorce was never going to be easy. It’s stressful, but essential. They need to know it’s not their fault, that you both love them, and that you both still want to be a part of their lives.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. However, do the best you can to at least get on the same page as your spouse about talking to your children. It can help them deal with the situation in a healthy way, and make them feel more comfortable knowing that they can come to either one of you with questions or concerns.
If you can, sit down together to talk about it. You can do this with one child at a time, or with all of them together. It depends on the dynamic of your family. Some children, due to age differences or personalities, will handle it better alone rather than together.
The responsibility to share the news should never fall on one parent alone. This united front from the start will help your children feel more secure.
18. Prepare before you talk
Before you decide to talk to your children together, make sure you’re both prepared. You both have to come to terms with your divorce before you can reassure your children.
You should also be able to answer some questions like what the living arrangements will be or what they can do to prepare for the road ahead.
While the children aren’t in control, they’ll deal with it better if they’re involved. They won’t feel so much like they’re being thrown in the middle of it, even if they can’t fix it.
19. Provide support
It’s important to continue to check in with your children one on one in the coming weeks. They’ll have time to deal with emotions, ask questions, and feel like you’re still there for them.
In addition, they may be more ready to talk about it now than they were before.
You’ll need to be prepared for them to act out in anger or withdraw. They will continue to have needs, but if you’re too wrapped up in your emotions, you can’t give them the support they need.
If you have older children, they have more complicated questions, so you need to be prepared to answer those appropriately. You need to have a plan together so that you can offer the best advice and answers.
20. Don’t share too much
Though your children may have questions, it’s important not to share too much. The complicated and hurtful details of why you’re getting divorce aren’t for them to know. They don’t need a reason to blame either of you or take sides.
What they need to know is that their parents are getting divorced and how that affects them.
Give them plenty of time to process the situation, and share just enough. Make sure they know that you both came to this conclusion together and emphasize that it’s not their fault and that you both still love them and are making them your priority.
Many people have been in your shoes and there’s someone out there who can help. It’s best to make sure you have a support system in place so you don’t have to go through it alone. Not only should you have friends and family by your side, but you should look into some professional help, whether that’s an attorney or some sort of consultant.
Have your ducks in a row before filing. If you didn’t file, make sure you get the help you need to prepare for the journey that lies ahead, and you’ll come out even better on the other side.