In the past, stay at home mothers were a staple in most households. Husbands went to their professional jobs every day, while mothers stayed home to take care of the children and household work. As times have changed, and single incomes have become inadequate for many families, more and more women have joined the workforce rather than remaining at home. With this change in society, stay-at-home parenthood has shifted to include more than just women. Stay-at-home parents have not disappeared, especially for families with young children, and many fathers have begun to stay home to take care of the kids.
For couples who live off a single income, divorce may seem like an impossibility. It is no secret that filing for divorce can involve high legal fees, and it can leave the non-working parent uncertain of how to proceed. Deciding to divorce as a stay-at-home parent can be a difficult choice to make, but no spouse should be stuck in an unhappy marriage, regardless of their working status. For stay-at-home parents in Illinois, divorce is a valid option, and with the help of a DuPage County divorce lawyer, you not only will survive your divorce but also come out stronger on the other side. If you are considering divorce, be sure to follow these tips:
Gather Your Official Documents
In households that have one working spouse, the financial responsibilities often fall on the working party. Since the working spouse knows their income, he or she typically handles the paying of bills, filing of tax returns, and overseeing other financial matters. Though it may seem overwhelming, it is important to collect your own copies of important legal documents. These include W2s and tax returns from the past several years, pay stubs and income statements, bank statements, insurance policies, and more.
You may believe that you are not entitled to your spouse’s income or savings, since you were not the person who earned this money. However, Illinois considers all property and assets acquired during a marriage to be both spouses’ property, known as marital property. You deserve to know your financial situation, and your attorney will need access to these records when helping you negotiate your divorce settlement.
Gain Access to Your Family’s Funds and Budget
As a stay-at-home parent, you are likely concerned about how you will pay your legal fees and how you will support yourself after everything is said and done. If you have no access to your marital funds, and your spouse refuses to support you, there is another way that you can fund your divorce. Illinois allows spouses going through the divorce process to request temporary alimony.
Also known as spousal maintenance, alimony is legally mandated financial support from one spouse to the other. You are able to request temporary alimony arrangements if you are having difficulties financially supporting yourself during the divorce. This money can be used towards your divorce proceedings if you wish. It is important to create a new, personal budget once you obtain this spousal maintenance allotment to be sure that you can use the funds to cover your legal fees and your everyday expenses.
Know the Worth of Your Marital Home
Some divorcing couples have an emotional tie to their home that they are not ready to let go of, while others may feel the need to move elsewhere to move on from their marriage. Whether you want to remain in your marital home or not, it is important to know the current value of your property. During the asset division process, it is critical to understand the value of what you own so that your marital property can be divided fairly.
In some cases, a stay-at-home parent may continue to own their marital home to live in with their kids, while the other parent moves out on their own. However, you may need to consider whether selling your home would be the better option. Depending on the value of the home and the ongoing costs, such as mortgage payments, utilities, maintenance, and property taxes, it may be more financially responsible to sell the home and move to a more affordable location. Not only will you reduce your monthly expenses, but you can also use the sale money to support yourself.
Consider Your Future Options
Depending on your state’s laws, you may be able to collect spousal maintenance, but in Illinois, there can be a time limit. Alimony payments are re-evaluated every few years, and if your former spouse can prove that you have not made any efforts to become self-supporting, your spousal maintenance payments can be terminated.
It is important to consider your options moving forward as a spouse who has been out of the workforce for some time. Take some time to think about possible jobs or career positions that you are interested in. If you need financial assistance from your spouse to go back to school to pursue your career goals, it is important to explain how this investment will help you become self-sustaining in the future.
Begin Building Your Finances
Since you and your spouse have had commingled financial accounts for the extent of your marriage, it is important to open your own personal accounts and build your credit. Building your personal credit score is critical for making large purchases in the future and living on your own. If all of your financial accounts have been in the name of your spouse, take the time to create your own accounts and keep your finances out of the hands of your spouse.
Hire a Reputable Legal Professional
The most important step that you can take as a stay-at-home parent is doing your research and hiring an experienced divorce attorney in your area. Stay-at-home parents have even more on the line than divorcing couples who are self-sustaining, and you need a divorce lawyer who can fight for your right to adequate assets, spousal maintenance payments, and child support, if applicable. You will want to work with a Naperville family law attorney who has extensive experience working with stay-at-home parents. Divorce is an option for every spouse, including those who are stay-at-home parents, and your legal representative is critical to the success of your divorce case and future.