Getting a divorce is the last step spouses take if they cannot resolve their issues and they no longer see a better future for their family. Unfortunately, the divorce process can be especially stressful and risky for stay-at-home moms.Keep reading to find out more about what you need to consider to protect yourself as a stay-at-home mom during divorce proceedings.
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: Red Stock
Guide for Stay-At-Home Moms in Dealing With A Divorce
Many stay-at-home moms struggle to find funds to pay for an attorney to represent them in a divorce. There are several options to help in this situation, including petitioning the court to have your spouse pay your attorney fees and non-traditional methods of divorce.
Here are a few things we will cover in this section:
- Decide if you need a divorce attorney or an alternative option
- Consider all divorce options
- Keep track of your finances
- Gather all necessary documents
- Start planning your post-divorce financial future
- Find ways to cope with the stress of divorce
Do you have to hire a divorce attorney?
Fighting legal battles can be long and difficult for anyone going through a divorce. Apart from that, hiring a divorce lawyer in California or elsewhere is expensive, which can cause additional stress during this traumatizing period in your life. And going to court is not only time-consuming but adds to divorce attorney costs, which can also severely hurt your budget.
This can be especially concerning for stay-at-home moms, who don’t have their own source of steady income. One option is to petition the court to require your spouse to pay your attorney fees. Do this by filling out form FL-300 and required attachments, paying a small fee and filing all this with the court. You might be able to find a lawyer to do this for you.
The good news is that in California and most other states, you do not have to hire an attorney to get divorced. Instead you can represent yourself, use an online service, hire a mediator or go to a legal documentation service. Each will save you money and has pros and cons. Let’s take a look at each of these options.
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: Alliance Images
Alternative ways of getting a divorce
Instead of hiring a divorce attorney, some people choose the option of representing themselves in the divorce process. They take care of completing financial disclosures, filing the petition and/or response as well as preparing the judgment and other forms that must be filed with the court to complete a divorce.
The advantage of self representation is that it saves a lot of money. The disadvantage is that divorce is a much more complicated legal process than most people expect. Even filling out the forms is time consuming and often confusing. If you get one thing wrong on a form the court will send it back and the whole process re-starts.
Self representation is particularly difficult if your spouse has an attorney. In this case you’ll find yourself dealing with an attorney’s legal filings and strategies, which can be intimidating and confusing. Think carefully about self-representation if your spouse hires an attorney.
Self-representation works best when you and your spouse agree on all or most terms of your divorce. If you have already decided how you are going to divide the property and whether there is a need to pay child support, you can file for an uncontested divorce.
Online Divorce Service
Between affordability and speed, this may be the best divorce option for stay at home moms. This process eliminates the need for in-person meetings, extended unwanted interactions, and costly mediation or divorce attorney hours.
There are different types of online divorce services. Most do nothing more than help you prepare the documents. This isn’t helpful if you need to work out disagreements with your spouse or just understand what you options are on things like child custody or spousal support.
The best online divorce services not only handle the paperwork but also help you work out a complete, fair divorce agreement. They include everything from division of assets to child custody and spousal support, and can help you resolve disagreements with digital or Zoom-based mediation.
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: Lapina
Another option that is particularly appealing for many stay-at-home moms is divorce mediation.
Divorce mediation is a process in which a neutral third party, referred to as a mediator, works with the couple that is going through a separation. This experienced professional can guide the couple through the divorce process, advising them on options to consider and helping them resolve disagreements.
Hiring a divorce mediator is significantly less expensive than paying a divorce lawyer and going to court. However, it’s more expensive than online divorce services. As with anything there are pros and cons. If spouses can talk rationally to each other and are willing to make compromises, mediation can be a good option.
The practice of divorce collaboration is an opportunity to avoid the classic court setting while facing your spouse and his attorney. This way of getting a divorce in California has become more common because there is less conflict and it can be less expensive.
To successfully get a collaborative divorce, both sides usually sign a “no court” agreement. In this agreement, you commit to using the collaborative process, without going court.
The process itself requires you and your spouse to hire collaborative divorce attorneys in California. These trained individuals will oversee the use of other experts, such as financial advisors, divorce coaches and mental health advisors. Meetings are held between the spouses and some or all of their team to work out the divorce settlement. Once a complete agreement is reached the attorneys will draft the marital settlement agreement.
Collaborative divorce is usually more expensive than mediation and sometimes, but not always, less expensive than hiring opposing attorneys.
Legal Documentation Specialists
A relatively new option in California divorce is to hire a legal documentation assistant to prepare the paperwork for you. California recently passed a law that authorizes legal documentation assistants to prepare certain types of paperwork, including divorce paperwork, with oversight from an attorney.
This option will save you money compared to hiring attorneys or mediators. There are even firms who specialize just in preparing divorce legal documents. What legal documentation assistants can’t do, however, is provide legal advice or help you work out disagreements. If you need this you will have to consider one of the options above.
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: aslysun
How to handle finances as a divorced stay-at-home parent
It is often easier to share financial stress with your spouse because you can work together and think of ways in which you can improve your finances. However, as a stay-at-home parent who is going through a divorce, handling finances can be extremely nerve-racking.
But despite that, as time goes by, you will be able to figure out what are the best steps to take in order to handle your money on your own. You won’t have to rely on your spouse anymore to help you with household finance management.
You can start by tracking every expense and income so that you become completely aware of how your finances will look post-divorce. Regardless of choosing divorce mediation or court trial, handling your finances will still be an unavoidable responsibility.
Credit card balance
Before anything else, you have to determine whether you can support your child financially, or if you will need temporary child support. Write your credit card balance information and start thinking about paying your bills, debts, and loans.
Getting saddled with debt is one of the outcomes of divorce that can be most difficult for stay at home moms. You’ll want to be proactive in avoiding this.
First of all, you might want to pay off any outstanding debts you can, especially joint debts with your name on them. This will ensure you’re burdened by them for years to come after the divorce.
Second, your spouse is required to disclose all debts and other obligations (like tax penalties or liens) to you during divorce proceedings. Be sure to look at the FL-142 Asset and Debt disclosure form. If any debts have your name on them see if you can have your name removed or if the debt can be paid off by your spouse.
Finally, be aware that even if your divorce agreement says your spouse is responsible for certain debts, the creditor will still hold you liable if your name is on the account. So try to have your name removed from any accounts that your spouse will be responsible for.
Until an agreement is reached between spouses in terms of finances, both of them have to pay for a mortgage loan.
After the separation is finalized, you and your ex-spouse can decide who will be listed as an owner of the family home to pay the mortgage loans. But as with other debts, the creditor will still hold you liable if your name is on the account.
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: Burdun Iliya
Do you need to prepare specific documents?
To make sure that you stay protected during divorce proceedings as a stay-at-home mom, you will need to store some important documents in a safe and secure place. Ensure that your spouse doesn’t have access to these papers because they may be used against you in court.
Life insurance policy
If your spouse is listed as the beneficiary in your life insurance policy, it is best to take action to remove them immediately. If your child is listed as the beneficiary in your ex-spouse’s life insurance policy, make sure you keep those records in case of trouble with alimony payments.
Even though you are a stay-at-home mom and your spouse was the one responsible for all the income, laws of divorce in California require both spouses to pay taxes. The spouse paying for child support is the only one paying for those taxes.
Property division papers
If you decide to take the divorce mediation route, don’t forget to have property division papers on hand. A divorce process usually includes an equal division of property between the two spouses. In some rare cases, the property can be inherited by only one of the spouses.
How to achieve independence as a divorced stay-at-home mom
Going over divorce laws and agreeing on a settlement is only the first step in gaining independence as a stay-at-home mom.
When all is settled and done with your ex-spouse, the next step is to start thinking about what lies ahead and the future of your child.
Create an emergency fund
Your living conditions will change after you get a divorce. With that, you will also notice a significant change in your finances. For this reason, it is a good idea to create an emergency fund just in case so you are prepared when some unexpected expenses appear.
Plan a monthly budget
Many stay-at-home moms don’t have extra money to spend on whatever they want. That is why it is often recommended to plan a monthly budget, including bill expenses, groceries, and payments that might be required by your child’s school system.
Have your own bank account
As a stay-at-home mom, maybe you have relied on your partner to handle the family bank account until you decided to get a divorce. Now would be a perfect time to open an account in your own name to keep track of your finances on your terms.
Create a new email address
Your ex-partner can know the password of your e-mail address. During and after divorce proceedings you will not want your spouse having access to private information. That is why you should create a new email address with a safe and secure password. Also change passwords to any important online personal accounts, such as separate property bank accounts.
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: Andrii Zastrozhnov
If necessary get court-ordered temporary child and spousal support payments
Stay-at-home moms and dads often depend on their spouse for income.
In many divorce situations the spouse of a stay-at-home parent will voluntarily provide child and even spousal support payments during divorce proceedings. If this isn’t the case with your spouse you can ask the court to order temporary support payments. You’ll need to file form FL-300 with the court, and also provide an income and expense declaration. As with any divorce paperwork, this can be a tedious process. If you don’t get it right the court can reject the documents. So have a lawyer or legal documentation assistant do it for you can be helpful. You can also ask for assistance from your county’s family law self help center.
How to cope with life after divorce
As soon as you have gotten over every aspect of the divorce with your ex-spouse, the process comes to an end. After that, you will be faced with a completely new view of your life as an independent and self-supporting stay-at-home mom.
To stay focused and prepared to take care of your children, you might be required to use your creativity. With the help of the Internet, you can browse through websites and read about something that sparks your interest.
There is nothing wrong with taking time for yourself because up until this point, all of your focus was pointed toward divorce papers and figuring out how laws work.
Establishing a positive mindset doesn’t come easy after separation, but some ways can make it simpler.
Find a new hobby
To get your mind off the stress that is often caused by a lengthy divorce, you can take on a new hobby.
Start exploring what brings you joy and do more of it in your free time. Choose something relaxing, such as painting, reading, or cooking new recipes.
Search for a part-time job
Just because you are a stay-at-home mom, it doesn’t mean that your only obligations are to cook and clean.
While your child is at school, you can search for online part-time jobs. This will not only occupy your mind with work, but it will also contribute to your financial freedom.
Focus on healing
If you don’t feel ready and inspired to work just yet, you can take all the time you need to heal after going through a traumatic experience such as divorce.
You are not obliged to embody strength and positivity all of the time because you might need space for yourself.
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: fizkes
Stay-At-Home Moms and Child Custody
Stay-at-home moms are often considered primary caregivers of the children in one marriage, and because of that, the stay-at-home mothers usually receive an “award” in the form of child support payments.
The stay-at-home mother also gets physical custody of the children, regardless of her employment status and financial condition. On the other hand, the ex-spouse receives the right to visit the children and make decisions about their future education, healthcare, and more.
However, all this will happen if the spouses come to a mutual agreement about the children’s custody and decide to divorce peacefully. But, if they decide to argue – the court will consider the arguments and conditions of both parties and decide which of them will get custody based on different facts.
In this situation, the child custody will depend on:
- Each parent’s financial condition;
- Each parent’s availability to care for the children;
- Each parent’s moral, mental, emotional, and physical condition;
- Each parent’s living conditions and the home environment;
- The bond between the children and their parents, grandparents, and siblings;
- The children’s preference*.
(In California Law, children of over 14 years have the right to testify in court during a custody trial and choose their custodial parent)
How to Make Your Child’s Life Easier
In the midst of all the drama and pain that is caused by a divorce process, make sure that your child is taken care of. Children are the ones who suffer the most due to parental divorce, and they need the presence of both parents in their lives.
Showing your children how much you resent their other parent will do nothing good for them. Instead, it may lead your child to push his father away from their life and never get a sense that they have a father figure who wants to be present.
You might feel frustrated toward your ex-spouse because perhaps they initiated the divorce. However, bringing a child into this world is a mutual decision within a marriage, and the outcome doesn’t disappear even after a married couple decides to get a divorce.
Regardless of how badly the marriage ended or how much you despise your ex-spouse, your child needs to see their father. Instead of fighting for sole custody, aim to include weekly visitations in the divorce agreement.
Create stable living conditions
Knowing that their parents stopped loving each other and they will never be together is difficult for children. To add to the misery, the worst thing you can do to your child is let them see you in an unstable state of mind.
Take care of your mental health
To be able to support your child financially and emotionally, you have to make sure that you don’t lose yourself in the process. Avoiding your emotions can cause long-term negative effects on your mental health, and it is best to ask for help as soon as possible.
Go to therapy
The feelings of guilt and depression you might experience after a divorce can be shared with a therapist. These individuals are trained to provide advice and techniques to enhance your coping mechanism and learn to talk about your emotions openly and recover from divorce faster.
Therapists often claim that the best way of dealing with post-divorce stress is to take an interest in meditation. This will help you easily adjust to the new situation and calm your nerves.
If you are a busy stay-at-home mom, five minutes of meditation every day would be just enough.
Read self-help books
To gain a better understanding of the fact that simply loving each other is not enough to keep a marriage between two people secure, you can find some self-help books. These books usually provide insight into the fear of sleeping alone and healing your heart after divorce.
Talk to a friend
Whenever you need emotional support, there is always that one friend who has the ability to listen and provide advice. It is also good to stay socialized during this difficult time in your life, letting you know that you are not alone and that things will get better with time.
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: fizkes
All that being said, only people who go through a divorce can explain the turbulent emotions and fear of change that are involved in the process.
As a stay-at-home mom, you have to remember that getting a divorce from your partner doesn’t mean that your life ends there. You have so much more to experience and learn, as well as to grow as an individual with your unique personality while at the same time focusing on spending time with your child.
Always consult a lawyer or divorce mediator and choose a peaceful divorce. Never choose to argue with your partner during a divorce because the court always considers the parties’ behavior, physical, and mental condition.