According to a blog published recently in the Huffington Post, "Divorce and the Stay-At-Home Mom," by Thomas Greenwald, it is important for women in this situation to plan ahead before initiating a divorce.
Before rushing out to find a divorce lawyer, he suggests the following:
Gather financial documentation
Looking up financial records may not be easy, particularly if your spouse handles the bills and investments, but it is important to establish a "snapshot" of your current finances. Make a personal copy of what you find, including everything you can find. Pay attention to debts as well as assets, and don't exclude emails, photographs, letters or other communication about money.
What should your financial records include?
Make a copy of home closing documents for real estate you own, as well as automobile titles, retirement account statements, bank and investment account statements, tax returns, monthly bills and credit card statements. Make a copy of these, paying careful attention to the dates on the statements. Remember, if you decide to wait on the divorce filing you will need to update your records with more recent statements. Either way, keep your copies in a safe place where you can easily access them.
Meet with a financial consultant
A lot of women are tempted to skip this step and rely on the advice of recently divorced friends, but this is something that should not be taken lightly. Your financial future after divorce will depend greatly on the decisions you make now. A divorce attorney will help you understand the potential benefits of meeting with a financial planner, but make sure you meet with one that is independent and not in any way tied to your marital assets.
A consultant can quickly asses your financial information and provide your legal team with a fair and accurate summary of your monthly budget. Why is this important? In order to fight for your rights in a divorce settlement, your lawyer will need to know your financial needs and the cost of maintaining your current lifestyle. He or she will help you understand the actual value of your marital assets and how much of your debt is "marital debt," the net worth of your estate and how much it costs to run your household each month. Just having this information at your fingertips will help enormously in determining the next steps in a divorce action, including the timing and potential employment.
Consider how your assets will be divided
With every divorce comes a division of assets, which in most states is considered "equitable distribution." A Colorado Springs divorce lawyer can help you understand the intricacies of what is "equitable" in your situation, but the actual division may not be determined until the end of mediation or litigation.
As a stay-at-home mom without an income, it is unrealistic to expect your husband to pay for all the expenses of a second residence while maintaining your current residence. Other options will need to be considered, including downsizing your residence, the sale of assets and employment outside of the home.
What about alimony?
Depending on where you live, you may be entitled to receive alimony, but some states don't make this an option. The amount of alimony you receive may be determined by the length of the marriage and it could be set up to expire after a certain period of time. In most states the guidelines for alimony are very specific and do not allow for much interpretation, but you may be able to work something out with your spouse outside of the courtroom. An experienced family lawyer will know the laws in your jurisdiction.
How will custody affect your finances?
If you win custody of the children, your child's father will have to pay child support, but the amount of this will depend on several factors: your state of residence, their father's income level, how many children, etc. Remember that child support doesn't necessarily cover all expenses for the children. You will need a separate agreement that outlines the division of costs for private education, extracurricular activities, computers, furniture, entertainment and other major expenses. Based on current state guidelines and your circumstances, your attorney can provide a fairly accurate estimate of how much child support you can expect to receive.
Getting this information upfront may be beneficial to you as you make plans for the future.
Photo courtesy of photo_stock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net