“I gave up my career when we had kids. We both agreed that I wouldn’t work so that I could stay at home and raise the kids.” I hear this all the time. Take heed, ladies: there is a hefty price you will pay for this arrangement should the marriage end in divorce. As indicated in this NBC News’ article by Martha White, “Making your career as a stay-at-home mom will get you nowhere if your husband decides he is done,” says single mom Michelle Bornemann.

A few things you should know:

Support
Of course, alimony and child support that may be a help in the “middle” term, but the issue really is about what to do in the short-term and the long-term.  Court-ordered support can take a while to obtain and although judges have some discretion in awarding it, you usually can’t count on it lasting forever.

The Challenges
What are you going to do right now, and what are you going to do when support eventually runs out?

Income History:  qualifying for a lease and qualifying for a mortgage require income. Not just income, but a history of reliable income is actually the criteria – and for the newly separated, guess what? There is no history of support. In fact, there is no guarantee that you’ll get sufficient support – or that your ex will even follow the court orders and actually pay it!
Getting a Job: “I have nothing to show for a resume,” Bornemann said. “The place I worked for 18 years ago is long gone.” Having no work history usually means you will not be getting a job that can support you immediately.
Under what roof will you be living while this is all getting sorted out?

Exit Plan
Hope is not lost! Patience and careful planning will go a long way. Stay-at-home moms will need an exit plan before filing for divorce. It should include these four strategies:

Courage: You will need to muster up some grit and belief in yourself. Just think of how many times you’ve encountered lousy service, or a less-than-competent professional and said to yourself “Geesh, I can do better than that!” Yes – you can. Hold onto that mindset.
A Tribe: Your friends and family will be more important than ever. But choose and use them wisely. They are your cheering squad and your rock of Gibraltar. A good tribe does not allow for pity parties or destructive self-talk. They believe in you and will be there for you, and will call you out on your victim language. You need them.
Work: Dip your toe into the workforce for even 10 hours a week. This will give you some kind of relevant experience that can lead to other opportunities when you transition into more full-time employment.
Savings: A savings account (or little zippered pouch) where you can stash some money away is a must for an effective exit plan. Figure out your budget and try to save at least 3 months’ worth.
Executing these four strategies will tee you up to stand on your own two feet.

Laurel Starks is a recognized expert in divorce real estate as an adviser and consultant in divorce cases, and serves as a court-appointed expert in the disposition of real property. She is recognized in the top one percent of real estate agents in Southern California as well as worldwide for Keller Williams Realty. 

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