If you're in the process of getting a divorce or simply finalizing the details, you probably have a good idea that your world is about to change — and fast. As a single mom who is either going back to work after a divorce or simply adjusting to being the sole provider, there will be a lot of questions that will come up as you go through the process. Here is a list of things to consider while you're making a divorce agreement or for you to simply prepare and plan for.
The Marital Home and Place of Residence
Will you stay in the marital home, and is this part of your divorce agreement? Will you two sell the home and divide the profits or perhaps one of you will buy the other out? Deciding what to do with the marital home and getting it in writing is key. If you want to stay in the home but cannot afford it, speaking to the bank, your lawyer or mediator, and a financial representative will help you determine if refinancing the mortgage is a good choice or, unfortunately, perhaps a short sale. Another possibility is finding someone to rent the home with you if there is someone you trust around your children.
You may find that you don't even want to stay in the home or cannot stay (as was my case), so the next steps are to decide where you're going to go.
- Are you able to afford a place on your own?
- Can you stay with friends or family until you are able to save?
- Depending on your custody plan, how far do you plan to be from your ex? If too far, it can make parenting difficult and unfair. However, if you are working, being close to your job as the now sole provider is important.
Alimony and Child Support
Child support is typically based on your ex's income and expected, but alimony is another ball of wax. Each state has its own alimony laws, and depending on the age of your kids, the length of the marriage, your capability to earn an income and the state's laws, and your current income compared to your ex's income, you may or may not receive alimony.
Even if you can rely on your ex to pay alimony and child support if you are eligible for both, have you considered what could happen if your ex is late on payments? Not all exes are timely. Be sure that you have a cushion and are not waiting on those payments to come in IF this is possible. For many single moms going through a divorce, financially, there is no cushion, but if you are able to take extra work or work a second job or overtime, do it. It's never a good feeling to rely on someone else for survival. For me, I really wanted to be able to provide for myself, and I knew that I wasn't going to be receiving a lot of money. I had to cover my tracks so I hunted furiously for work, and then after finding full-time work, I got other jobs as well to support myself.
Will you be paying alimony? Were you the breadwinner? Some mothers pay alimony. It does happen.
Determining alimony and child support is the job of a lawyer or mediator. Seek counsel to understand what your potential finances will look like.
Depending on your state and when your divorce is finalized, you may be able to still reap the benefits of filing married (jointly) if you two so desire. If still legally married on Dec. 31 of the previous year, you could file married and joint or married but separate. Speak to your account and lawyer about this matter. It's something many people divorcing forget to do. Don't forget!
Credit Card Debt
Married debt is married debt whether you rang it up or your ex did. For us, we split the cost of the debt in half and used our savings to pay it off so we could walk away without any issues. Speak to your legal counsel about the credit card debt and how to handle it.
Auto and Student Loans
Bring this matter up to your legal counsel so you understand who is responsible for paying WHAT off, rather than being surprised.
Not just the home but other things of worth, including everyday furniture, are often divided up. This matters especially when you are trying to move into your own place and get settled. Buying new furniture and items adds up. If the two of you own any rentals, properties, or other big investments, it can be tricky and take time to figure out who gets what.
For single moms, finding care for their children can be extremely stressful. Will you be:
- Needing day care?
- Getting a babysitter as backup help? Even if you're still at home after the divorce, it's recommended unless you have great family and friends to help.
- Needing additional care than you did before such as before or after care for your children?
Are you entitled to your ex's retirement funds, or is your ex entitled to yours? Something that will be factored into a divorce agreement.
At the end of the day, divorce is tricky and can be financially devastating for single moms who typically earn less than their exes. Take your time, seek trusted legal counsel, and don't rush into signing anything without fully understanding all of the options available to you.