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Marriage is a partnership, which means each spouse has his or her own role in making things work. When divorce happens, you need to figure out how to make everything work on your own. A spouse who never shopped or cooked needs to figure out how to get meals on the table. A spouse whose role was running the household may need to find work outside the home. No matter what your role was in your marriage, it will necessarily evolve when you divorce. For homemakers and stay-at-home parents, both female and male, divorce can present some unique challenges. Here's what you need to know about homemakers and divorce.
Many homemakers (a term I prefer because "stay-at-home" parents are often on the go, and because not all homemakers have children at home) find divorce daunting because they feel as if they do not have resources. This is true whether it is they or their spouse who feels the need for the divorce.
If you are a homemaker, you are probably worried about money and your divorce. How much will a divorce cost? Since your spouse is the one with the job, how will you support yourself during and after the divorce? You and your kids have become accustomed to a certain standard of living. What adjustments will you have to make?
All of these are reasonable questions. The fact is, things WILL change financially during and after your divorce, but you will be able to make it. You will probably be entitled to receive spousal maintenance (alimony) until you are able to get on your feet financially, and may be able to receive payments for many years or even permanently, depending on your circumstances. If you have children who live with you, you will be able to receive child support. Before assuming you can't afford to divorce, schedule a consultation with a family law attorney who can help you understand what to expect.
One of the things that is hard about any divorce is the fear of the unknown. But speculating about what might happen leads only to hand-wringing and anxiety, not action. And action—meaningful action—is what you need to take.
That's not to say your worries are pointless; they're not. In fact, they are very important, because they tell you what you need to learn. Worried you won't have enough to live on? Learn about the alimony laws in your state. Fearful that your spouse is hiding assets? Get more involved in the household finances so that you will understand both what assets will need to be divided and what expenses you may need to deal with. Get copies of bank statements, investment accounts, credit card bills, tax returns. Your attorney can help you understand the lay of the land, or may recommend a financial professional to do so.
Divorce involves a great deal of upheaval: emotionally, financially, socially, and in terms of your day-to-day life and routines. Often, when there's a lot of change going on, the tempting thing to do is to cling to things that are comfortable and secure. You may feel, for instance, as if you need to go out and get the first job you can find, just to survive. That may be a short-term solution to financial worries, but it might come back to bite you in the long run, when you're stuck in a dead-end job and your spousal maintenance runs out.
Instead, consider a consultation with a vocational consultant or career coach. You may be able to train for a career that will not only give you more earning potential in the long run, but will also give you a feeling of pride, growth, and mastery—emotions that are often in short supply after a divorce.
As mentioned above, there will be financial adjustments. These can be especially tough because there is an emotional aspect to the financial changes of divorce. A good example is your marital home. You may want to stay there, but have real concerns about whether you can afford to do so. Your kids may resist moving for their own reasons, even if you feel it's the best (or only) option. Making that financial decision, even if it is a wise one, still involves loss and grieving.
As a homemaker, a big part of your activity revolved around the home. If you decide to move, or feel you must, you are losing not just your home, but something you have put a lot of energy and effort into. If you want to stay in the home, you must decide whether having the comfort of that familiarity for you and the children is worth the financial strain it puts on you.
You may go back to work in order to have more financial stability. This can be positive, but it's also a big change for both you and your kids. Give yourself permission to feel the emotional impact of whatever changes are taking place. New beginnings have the potential for great things, but they are also, often, really hard. Acknowledging that honestly will help you (and your kids) get through it, and be ready for the good things that lie ahead.
The prospect of divorce may be daunting, but you are not alone. We invite you to contact our law office so that we can help you answer the questions you have about homemakers and divorce.