Making the choice to divorce is tough. Before we chose to separate, I often asked other divorced people how they knew when they were done.
"What was the deciding factor? How did you know it was right?"
No one had a magic answer for me, but everyone said that, at some point, they knew that divorce was the answer.
I wish I could tell you that, once we decided to divorce, I never doubted my choice, but that would be a lie. In the end, though, I know it was a sane choice even if a hard one. So if you're considering taking the plunge and severing your marital ties, here are some things, as moms and potential single moms, that you should consider.
Is your credit in shape? Are you able to support yourself? How much marital debt have you acquired?
There are so many things to be factored before heading for divorce. I am not a financial planner or adviser. I am also not a lawyer. What I can tell you, however, is marital debt is typically split and that alimony is not guaranteed nor is it typically permanent. This means you should evaluate your own means of income to see what you are capable of bringing to the table financially, as well as your own individual credit debt.
If you're thinking divorce, it would be smart to speak to a lawyer as well as an accountant or financial adviser simply to get a sense of where you might be headed financially. On the whole, divorce is hard on both parties financially. It's rare to see a mother or father walk away from divorce financially intact. Talking to a professional about whether you should be paying debt down or considering putting money aside instead (if it's possible) is the smartest move. A lawyer can also give you some frame of reference in terms of what you might be entitled to financially from your spouse (or if your spouse is entitled to any money or stocks from you — yes, this happens!), if anything, as well as child support guidelines for your state.
What if I have never balanced my own checkbook before?
If you're not in charge of money now and never have been, a tutorial is in order.
Savvy Ladies, a nonprofit organization that brings financial planning education to women, is an excellent resource for mothers looking to educate themselves financially.
When I knew I was getting a divorce, I sought advice from one of their advisers on a good budget for myself. I had already lived on my own before, but it had been awhile, and I was financially dependent on my ex. They gave me something to work with, which was very helpful, and I had an idea of what I was in for once the divorce process began.
What if I am not working?
If you're not working, I would work on that — stat! You might be advised by a lawyer to hold off on work in order to get the most amount of money, so go with your legal advice first, but in my eyes, getting yourself set up in a career is most important if you're not already working. When we separated, I was contracting as a freelancer and I made sure I had full-time work in addition to my freelance, as we started to move into the divorce process. The fact is I wanted to rely on myself and I had to be smart in order to care for my daughter. If you're not sure what you bring to the table as an employee, determine what your skills are by talking to a local career center, counselor, college alumni center, etc., and see where you need to fill in the gaps in order to gain employment.
If this means attending school or something else that is major, you may want to consider holding off and pushing the matter. Financial stability is no joke as a mother, and it is scary when you are first out on your own. Do everything you can to secure yourself before making this big choice, if possible.
Your Child Care Resources
What will your child care scenario look like? You may or may not know what type of custody your partner will want, but you should have a good idea whether or not you will have helping hands or require more day care upon a divorce.
If you think you're going to be left to your own devices with very little help from family or friends, you may want to start interviewing babysitters now, explaining to your partner that you're simply looking for steady help with the kids. Nothing else needs to be said.
If a divorce would require your children to go to day care, it can't hurt to collect prices and information now as well. This will just give you some prep for if and when the time comes.
Your Living Situation
A lawyer will be the best person to give you feedback on what could happen to the marital home. If you think there's a chance you might have to move out, start researching areas around you and near enough to your potential ex-spouse. It is smart to get an idea of what the cost of living is like, as well as rent.
A lot of people assume that dads will just be weekend dads and not co-parents, but that's not the case today, Mommies. Many parents are doing 50/50 splits or at least doing more than the standard every-other-weekend dad routine.
Mentally prepare yourself for what it will be like to share your kids. It won't be easy all the time. And to be honest, there is no great preparation for this. Even after 16 months, it is still hard for me to see her walk away to Dad, but I have gotten used to the schedule at least. I miss her a lot. I don't think that will ever change.
Your Children's Perspective
Be prepared for a potential rough patch or year . . . or more for the kiddos. Kids react to divorce — some very strongly and others not as much. You know your children well. Consider some of the potential setbacks they could have, as well as how you might help them through it, such as play therapy, for example. Expect your child to regress somewhat.
If this is on your mind, be warned: it's not easy to find someone.
OK — I retract that statement. It's easy to find someone. It's not easy to find "the One."
Dating with kids after divorce is not a picnic, and you'll have to weed through the patches quite a bit in order to get a blooming flower.
Don't get out of marriage expecting to jump into something successful right away. It doesn't happen. If you choose to divorce, be patient with love.
Some people don't have a very realistic picture of what it will truly be like to divorce. I have had friends talk to me with a very clouded picture of what divorce will be like. Reach out to divorced friends. Ask tough questions. Listen to things you may not want to hear. I'm sure some of my friends may think it's awesome I get every other weekend to myself, but it comes with a host of other situations that none of my friends would ever want to deal with. I miss my kid a lot. Money is hard. Starting over is hard. I feel alone sometimes. It was, however, the choice I had to make, and I know I am making the life I want, step by step, brick by brick. It may not be the choice you have to make.
List what things, issues, or roadblocks your marriage has. See where you think there could be potential improvements on his end as well as yours. Yes — yours. You may be a big part of the marital problems. Only you, your partner, and a professional will know. If your partner is abusive, however, then it's time to get out ASAP, but perhaps before splitting, you might seek marriage counseling.
Sometimes the grass looks greener on the other side to both moms and dads alike. It's not. It's just different pee stains! If your marriage is fixable, you should try and expect that, when trying, you will most likely have to change as well. It may not be that the marriage is doomed, but that your communication is bad, or perhaps the introduction of children has thrown your romantic life to the total wayside. Maybe your duties as a mother and perhaps employee have been too much, and some help from your partner and stress relief could help you approach the marriage differently. Your partner might not even understand how bad you're feeling.
There are so many ways this scenario could turn, depending on your own unique situation, but it never hurts to try counseling as long as both parties are committed to the process.
In a Nutshell
This article is not intended to deter everyone from divorce. Sometimes a divorce is absolutely inevitable, but as a mother, preparing yourself for what life will be like as a divorced single mom is smart. Divorce is a big life change — get prepped.
Lastly, there is no Magic 8 Ball with the answer, and no one else can answer for you whether divorce is the best choice or not, and that's the hardest part about all of this, but I guarantee you that you will find out all on your own.