A stay at home mom generally faces extra challenges when it comes to divorce, such no control over the finances, no paycheck, and less power in the relationship.
Answers by Brette Sember, J.D. and Gloria Swardenski, Life Coach
Approximately 29% (1) of married mothers are stay-at-home moms. Current statistics show around 45% of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce (2) and stay-at-home moms are not immune to this trend. Therefore, it’s important to understand the unique challenges you may face as a stay-at-home mom and what to consider when getting divorced.
If you're facing the possibility of divorce, read the suggestions from the life coach and the legal expert for ideas on how to get prepared and cope with what you're facing.
How can I prepare for a divorce?
How will I make ends meet if I've been a homemaker?
How does a SAHM get through an unexpected divorce?
How can I make a living after being home for 22 years?
Elise's Question: My husband has an idea but I have not “made it official” yet. SAHM for over 14 years, 55-1/2 years old, no access to or true knowledge of our finances, VERY little money of my own (less than $3k), minimal employable skills; outdated secretarial skills, not getting many responses to applications, when I do I’m offered between $10 and $14 per hour...cannot live on that and maintenance support won’t be for long. Very depressed and worried. Also, since I have no access to much paperwork (house, bills, finances, etc.), how do women like me address situations like mine prior to hiring an attorney?
Brette's Answer: You should start setting up appointments for free consultations with divorce attorneys to learn about your rights and how to proceed. You're entitled to roughly half of the marital assets and you can access them for your legal bills. Your attorney can get copies of all the financial documents as part of the divorce. You may be entitled to alimony that lasts for 1/3 the length of your marriage or even longer possibly. Make some appointments and start getting some information.
Michelle's Question: My husband & I have been married for 6 years & we are looking to get a divorce, but before I do so, I am VERY worried about HOW I will support our 4 young children alone. I haven't work in years because we both thought staying home with our children was best for them & us financially. What are my options since I do not work?
Brette's Answer: See an attorney. You will get child support and may be able to get alimony to support you while you return to school or search for a job. At some point you are going to have to find a way to become self-supporting. It's hard, but you will get there!
Tina's Question: We have 2 girls, and I have been a stay at home mom for several years. My husband just dumped on me that he wants a divorce and custody of our oldest daughter. He said he didn't want to be nasty, but if I fight for her he will fight back. I don't know what to do. I am in a mess here and I fear that he will take both of our girls because I have no license, vehicle, job, and soon no home. I'm also afraid that he will cut off my funds, and I won't be able to pay my lawyer. I know you can't give legal advice. I just need help on how to react and respond to make this easier on the children.
Gloria's Answer: In a nutshell, the fears that you are feeling right now are very overwhelming and in the grand scheme of things can feel very real. Based on the information you have right now, it does seem like a mountain that is almost impossible to climb. Yet, I want you to know that it isn't impossible! Without question, it will be hard, but not impossible.
Like many women who go through a divorce with children, it is time for you to dig deep and get your feet on the ground as quickly as you can. Your power and strength will come from several different places, but your biggest asset will be information. The fears that come with not knowing are always much worse than the reality of knowing.
Since you are in jeopardy of losing your home, who do you know who can help you right now? Do you have friends or family that you and the girls can stay with? What organizations or charities can you call to get the help you need short term? Figure this one out first.
Next, do whatever you have to do to get your license and get a job to begin to financially rebuild. What are your skills? Do you have a resume together? If not, do it or at least get some history and references together for an application. Begin reading the classifieds, and again, find the resources available to you to get the skills you need to support yourself and your girls. The unemployment office can help you some here.
Keep in mind that the changes that come with all of this will be unnerving, often exhausting, and may be some of the hardest things you've ever had to do. It will be hard, but you can do hard! It takes great courage to humble yourself and ask for whatever it is that you need, so be very proud of yourself that you will do whatever it takes to take care of yourself and your family.
As far as emotionally supporting your girls in this, I would encourage you all to trust that the legal system is there to protect the best interests of the children in divorce cases. Find out what that really means in your state and what your rights are. Your husband can throw out all kinds of scenarios, but just because he wants it to be a certain way, doesn't make it so. Do what you have to do to take care of yourself first, and let the other pieces fall into place with the information you receive.
You are amazingly strong, smart, and resourceful. Never forget who you are and all that you are capable of! Feel free to share this with your girls, too. You go, Girls!!
Marcia's Question: I've been a homemaker for 22 years. He moved us to the middle of nowhere so that we could do things together, and then he decides to leave. I don't have any family or friends here, and it's a very small town, so work and school opportunities are limited. I'm stuck here until the divorce is finalized, and my biggest fear is how I can earn money. Help!
Gloria's Answer: One of the major struggles for many stay-at-home Mom's is researching the job market and trying to work out how they are going to earn a living after divorce. Yet, I truly believe that stay-at-home Moms have so many transferable skills in the workplace that often go unrecognized.
Moms are incredible organizers, time management specialists, and negotiators (How many times have we had to negotiate with a 2 year old!). We are often great listeners, communicators, and multi-taskers. We are very intuitive and often act just on an impulse that often turns out to be the right move. We are great teachers, innovators, and motivators. (Think peas at the dinner table!)
These are skills that you do have right now! The other more technical things you can learn. You can read. You can take classes. You can ask for help from experts, work temporary jobs, and get that degree online if necessary.
You can always choose to work from home, too. There are many Multi-Level companies that are legitimate opportunities for you to take advantage of. There are also many virtual opportunities like a virtual assistant, freelance writer, or artist.
You are not less than simply because you have chosen to stay at home to raise your family. Take some time to see the opportunity now in finding out your skills, your passions, and your independent abilities in creating new streams of income. I'm truly excited that soon you will discover who you are and all that you are capable of!