Top Ten Considerations for Women Going Through a Divorce
1. Finances: Be informed and stay organized. Educate yourself about the family’s finances if you aren’t already. Consider hiring a certified financial planner that has experience with divorces and working with women. If you cannot afford one, go to your local bookstore and buy a book on financial planning. Taking steps now to protect your finances and credit will save you from future headaches.
2. Marital and Separate Property: Put together as much documentation as you can regarding property that you acquired by gift or inheritance or that you owned prior to getting married. Same goes for any property that you or your spouse acquired during the marriage. Try to document the existence of you and your husband’s life insurance policies, 401Ks, IRAs, pensions, stock options, and other retirement accounts and benefits.
3. Spousal Support: Maintenance, formerly known as alimony, is meant to help the lower earning spouse transition to financial independence. This is especially true when the spouse has forgone business opportunities to stay home and raise the children. Whether you have a chance of receiving maintenance will depend on your particular situation and the amount of money you and your husband make.
4. Child Support: If you have children and are planning to be the primary caregiver, your spouse will probably have to pay child support. Many different factors are looked in determining child support. The main factors are the respective income of you and your husband, the amount of time the children will spend with the mother and father, and who will provide insurance coverage for the children. Costs for work-related child care and for extraordinary medical expenses also are considered. Keep in mind that child support is not taxable.
5. Insurance: If you are covered under your husband’s insurance, it is a good idea to make sure you and your children have all of their medical and/or dental checkups while you are still covered. Your children can continue to be covered under your spouse’s health insurance if your spouse agrees to continue coverage or if the court orders your spouse to continue coverage. An ex-wife, however, cannot. It may be possible to continue under COBRA coverage, depending on your situation.
6. Hiring an Attorney that Deals with Women’s Issues: You are probably concerned about your finances, and you should be. That being said, you will benefit in the long run by hiring an attorney. Mistakes made during the divorce process can cost a lot more in the long run and an experienced family law attorney will know the right questions to ask and can help you on your path to financial independence.
7. Vocational Training for Women: Many women stay home to care for their children or take different career paths which allow them to have more time to raise their children. If you have been out of the workforce for a while, or curtailed your prior career plans, you should consider seeking career counseling or vocational training. Oftentimes local universities or community centers offer programs to help women enter or re-enter the workforce. On that same note, consider updating your work wardrobe, putting together a new resume, and refreshing your interviewing skills.
8. Transportation: Take your car to the shop and make sure everything is in top working order. The last thing you will want to deal with during a divorce is an expensive car repair.
9. Living Arrangements: If you have children and intend to have the children the majority of the time, you might consider staying in the family home. One of the factors the court considers when dividing marital property is the desirability of awarding the family home to the mother or the right of the mother to live there for a reasonable time. However, many women make the mistake of keeping the marital home when they cannot afford to maintain the home. Therefore, a decision to stay in the marital home must be based on an ability to financially maintain the home.
10. Take Time for Yourself: Perhaps the most important thing to consider is taking some time out for you. No matter what happened during your marriage, keeping your head straight will result in a much better future for you and your children. Divorce is a very emotional process and can take its toll on everyone involved. Do not underestimate the value of therapy. Consider family sessions or separate sessions for you and your children. Having someone to talk to about the changes in your life will help make them less daunting.