HELP! I’m a Stay-at-Home Mom and Getting Divorced
Photo by Jordan Whitt
If you have been married for several years and spent your married life as a stay-at-home mom taking care of your family and realize you are facing a divorce, there is no reason to panic. Your efforts of caring for your home and family will not be ignored by the Court and is not discouraged by the laws in Illinois. Every case, of course, is fact-specific and the outcome of your case will be dependent on the facts in your specific marriage. As an example, a stay-at-home mom who has a Ph.D. and previous work history may likely have a different divorce outcome than a stay-at-home mom who has no advanced degree and no job experience. The length of your marriage is also important, as in the previous example a stay-at-home mom who has been home for the past two years is likely to turn out differently than a stay-at-home mom who has been home for ten years.
5 Tips for a Stay-at-Home Mom Facing Divorce
If you find yourself facing divorce as a stay-at-home mom, it is important to understand your family’s financial picture and plan for your future after the divorce. It is important when going through a divorce to be able to articulate to your attorney and the court what your reasonable needs are, so it is important to begin an investigation as to what your needs have been in the past and how things may look in your future. If you have overseen paying the bills and managing your marital finances, then you will have a good idea of where you stand and how much money it takes to run your household. However, if you are not involved in the financial operations of your household then you will have to start doing some investigative work.
Divorce Tip #1: Start gathering documents.
The more information you can gather and share with your divorce attorney the better for you to work with your attorney in making decisions. The important documents to get together are as follows:
- Your personal tax returns (at least the last three years)
- Paystubs if your spouse is a W-2 wage earner
- If you and/or your spouse own a business you will need the business tax returns and other income statements relating to the business
- Bank Statements
- Retirement and Investment Accounts
- Mortgage and any other loan documents
- Credit Cards Accounts (information and recent statements)
Divorce Tip #2: Prepare a budget.
Know what you have been spending to run your household so that you can understand what you will need to continue living after you are divorced. You need to know what you will need to know what to ask for as far as maintenance and child support from your spouse. If you are going to be moving from the marital home, you should determine where you will likely be moving and do the research as to what is available and how much will it cost so that you can do an outline of a potential budget in your new home. On the other hand, if you are going to plan on staying in the marital home the budget that you create will allow you to determine how much money you will need when your spouse is no longer in the house contributing to the expenses.
Divorce Tip #3: Understand and know your credit score.
You should immediately order a copy of your credit report from one of the key credit reporting agencies (Experian, etc.) and review the report in detail. Make sure you are aware of all of the credit cards and debts listed and that the debts reflected on your credit report are being paid on time. If there are things on your credit report that you are unaware of you can work with your divorce attorney to make sure you obtain the supporting documents on those debts. You will need to make sure you can control your credit score moving forward. If you do not have much on your credit score and need to increase your credit you can take steps to get your score up which will help you after the divorce when you will be applying for things based on your own income and your individual credit score.
Divorce Tip #4: Decide how you would like things to look after the divorce and work with a qualified attorney to create a plan to get you there.
What is most important to you and how to get there is a critical piece of the planning process. You need to consider the following and rate in terms of importance:
- Being the primary parent for the children
- Staying in the marital home
- Not having to go back to work for a period of time
- Going back to school in order to obtain employment
- Cash flow / retirement
Divorce Tip #5: Think about returning to work and what that may look like.
Do you need to go back to school for a degree, a certificate or training? If so, you will want to research the availability of a college or program and the costs so that you can build that into your financial need. If you are of an age where you can rehabilitate and become employable it is a good idea to think in terms of becoming self-supporting, but it will take some research and decisions about your future.