If you’re facing divorce after you dedicated years to staying home and raising your children, you need to act quickly to protect yourself and your children. Follow these important steps:
1. Find an expert in Family Law and Mediation who can help you protect your financial future as well as negotiate arrangements that will be best for the children. You don’t know which direction your divorce will take. You may be able to settle amicably and mediate child support and visitation that’s agreeable to both of you… and you may not. You need a lawyer who is committed to settling out of court if possible but is capable of winning in court if necessary.
2. Make copies of all important financial documents – tax forms, bank statements, bills. Your lawyer will need these to make sure you get a fair division of assets as well as sufficient child support and spousal support.
3. Create a list of tangible assets that are important to you for the settlement. Consider, too, the value of your house and the expense of maintaining it (including taxes). For many people, downsizing is the best option – it frees up cash, decreases expenses, and helps you start over again without painful memories. But every situation is different. Discuss with your lawyer and a divorce financial analyst.
4. Protect current assets and create a personal bank account. Talk to your lawyer about freezing assets in a joint account to prevent your husband from withdrawing everything and leaving you penniless. Also discuss how you can create a stash of cash in your own name to hold you over until the divorce is settled.
5. Consider getting a job. This is tricky for the stay-at-home mom, because if your husband is currently out of work or quit his job and you take a minimum-wage job to keep the roof over your head, you could be considered the breadwinner. But if your husband is still gainfully employed, a part-time job may give you the funds you need until settlement.
6. Consider if/when you will go back to work after the divorce and what you need to do to prepare. If your divorce has to go to court, the judge will consider the age and health of your children, the years of marriage, and your skills to determine if you should be expected to return to work and when. Prepare now for that likelihood by looking at online courses you could take to brush up on your skills and make you more marketable.
7. Have someone to talk to. This is a very stressful time, but with help, you can do it. Your lawyer will work to give you the best settlement you can get, but he or she is not a therapist. You may need a professional counselor or a support group who will give you the strength and support you need to get you to the other side. Consider a counselor for your children as well.
There are other things you need to do, but these are the most immediate. If you’re a stay-at-home mom getting divorced in PA, contact us at The Legal and Mediation Services of Karen Ann Ulmer, Attorneys at Law to see how we can guide you through these and other important steps you need to take to protect yourself and your children.