A divorce is an upsetting and stressful time for anyone, but people who have spent a number of years staying at home and out of the workforce to parent their children face an extra level of worry. If you're a stay-at-home parent facing an impending divorce, you risk having much of the financial support you've depended on cut off. That means re-entering the workforce with an out-of-date resume, finding child care, and learning to budget your money on a whole new income. That's in addition to the usual emotional and legal stresses that go along with any divorce. There's no question that divorce is especially tough on stay-at-home parents. However, you can get through it. Here are some tips that can help you out.
Retain a Lawyer Right Away
Sure, almost any divorcing couple is advised to consult an attorney. But the reality is that not all of them do. Simple divorces can often be handled without formal legal representation – couples can file for a no-fault divorce with the help of a paralegal service or even on their own. However, as a stay-at-home parent dependent on your soon-to-be ex spouse's income, you're in need of more legal protection than someone who has an income stream of their own.
While the divorce is in progress, your attorney can help you file for child support – the divorce doesn't need to be finalized to put a child support order in place. Your attorney can also help you request alimony pedente lite. This is a temporary support order that ensures that the spouse that is earning money continues to support the dependent spouse through the divorce. Many people don't realize that they don't have to wait until after the divorce to get spousal support.
Your spouse may be required to pay certain bills, such as your mortgage, your rent, your utilities, and your attorney's fees. Or the court may require your spouse to give you a certain amount of money to pay the bills yourself. Either way, alimony pedente lite exists to ensure that the higher-earning spouse can't leave a dependent spouse in poverty during the divorce proceedings.
Create a Budget
No matter what kind of temporary or permanent support order is put into place, the odds are good that you'll be living on less money than you're used to. Your family's income hasn't changed, but the expenses have now doubled – there are now two households for that one income to support, at least temporarily. That means that it's time to take a close look at your budget and see where you can cut costs.
This is also a good time to consider any new expenses that you'll be dealing with as the result of a divorce. Will you be going to work? Going back to school? If so, do you have young children who will need daycare? Find out what the average price of daycare or after school care is in your area, and make sure to work that into your budget. If your family was previously a one-vehicle family, you may also need to consider buying a car or including public transportation expenses in your budget. Putting these new expenses down on paper will help you figure out what you'll need to ask for in terms of child support and permanent alimony, as well as what kind of salary you'll need to look for if you're going back to work.
Update Your Resume
Divorce often means a return to work for a stay-at-home parent, and having been out of the workforce for even a few years puts you at a disadvantage as a job seeker. Your skills may be out of date, and even if you've kept your skills current, a several-year gap in your resume often turns off hiring managers. It's a good idea to start looking for ways to spruce up your resume immediately.
If you have savings or a generous alimony pedente lite order that allows you to delay returning to work, you're in a position to take classes to improve your skills and develop new ones, or do volunteer work to help give you some recent work experience in your desired field. Take advantage of this time.
If you need to return to work immediately, you may be stuck taking on a less desirable job. Consider taking classes while working so that you can move on to something better as soon as possible. Don't forget to keep updating your resume and applying for more preferable positions. Also, consider the possibility of working from home. There are a number of online jobs, including virtual assisting and customer service or sales, that require minimal experience and work history, and these will allow you to remain home with your children while earning, and cut down on daycare and transportation expenses.
Going through a divorce as a stay-at-home parent may be difficult, but people get through the experience every day, and you will too. Just be sure that you have a good family law attorney and that you prepare yourself as well as possible by learning about the challenges ahead of you.