Escape financial dependence and plan for a career amidst divorce

The prospect of divorce brings up many questions for women, especially stay-at-home moms and those who haven’t been working. Can I afford to be single? Will anyone hire me? How do I separate my finances from my husband’s?  What if I can’t find financial stability after divorce?

Divorce is more than a separation of spouses. It’s also a financial separation — and a transition into financial independence. This can be scary for many women, and sadly, it’s often a major reason why they stay in unhealthy relationships.

Let’s re-envision divorce as an opportunity for you to thrive financially, rather than focusing on “becoming single.” Instead, you’re becoming the breadwinner. Here’s what to consider as you pursue financial stability after divorce.

You’ve Got the Power

Women tend to run the home even if they’re not the primary earner. In two-thirds of single-income households, the wife is more likely to do laundry, dishes, cooking, and cleaning. But only 30-35% of dual-income households report that both spouses share domestic labor equally.

In other words, women are typically in charge of running the house. That includes major decisions on how to save and spend money — even if their husband is the primary or sole breadwinner. Our society has raised many generations of girls and women with this strategic mindset. These skills can benefit you as you plan for divorce.

Budgeting for a New Household

How do stay-at-home moms prepare for divorce? It starts with a budget.

Plan for cost-of-living changes as a single mom or solo earner

If you’ve been in charge of grocery shopping, you already have a solid basis for your solo household budget. Subtract the amount you’d spend on one adult. For now, assume you’ll spend the same amount on your kids’ food, as well as basic toiletries and household essentials.

Next, compile all shared household bills, such as electricity, gas, water, internet, the alarm system, etc. Some, such as internet, won’t change much in a single-adult household. Your utility bills will likely be cheaper, especially if you plan to move into a smaller home. However, be sure to budget for deposits and connection fees if you need to open new accounts in your name.

What about rent or mortgage expenses?

Divorcing couples typically have three options, at least for the short term:

  • One moves out of the home.
  • Both move out of the home.
  • The children stay in the home, and each parent takes turns staying with them.

If you rent, it may be cheapest to ride out the rest of your lease with one of these options.

If you own, remember that you don’t need to stay in the home to claim it. In TX, ownership is not 9/10s of the law. Was the house obtained before or after marriage? If it’s not considered community property, it may be awarded to whichever spouse purchased or inherited it before marriage.

If you bought it together, it will be up to your mediation or divorce court, when you divide marital property. For now, budget for the worst-case scenario, and remember, you may need to obtain new housing before the home is awarded to one of you — or sold entirely.

Not sure what your housing situation will be? Go ahead and research your area’s average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment. Budget for the security deposit and move-in fees. In Texas, that usually comes to about 1.5 times the monthly rent.

Once you have a rough budget on paper, it’s time to think about income.

Pursuing New Income Opportunities

For women who have been financially dependent on their spouses, divorce can seem like an inevitable way to go broke. But that doesn’t have to be the case. While breaking that dependence can be nerve-wracking, it can help to think of it as “finding new income sources” rather than “earning a living.”

Remember, you deserve to survive and your worth doesn’t depend on your financial state. In fact, you deserve to thrive! So, here’s how to start looking for money to support your budget.

Finding Supplemental Work and Income

First, figure out how much more money you need to bring in. A clear number can help keep you motivated without feeling pressured to take just any old gig. (Remember, many low-paying jobs may end up costing you more in materials, time, and health risks.)

If you’re already employed, consider how you can enhance your income.

The gig economy offers many ways to earn extra money. Popular choices include:

  • App delivery services, e.g. DoorDash, Uber
  • Participation in online surveys and research studies
  • Data entry and transcription
  • Creating content, such as videos and blogs
  • Freelance home services, such as housecleaning, babysitting, and lawn/garden maintenance

Check out your local temp agencies for possible short-term gigs, as well as online freelancer platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr. Job listing sites (e.g. LinkedIn, Indeed) also list contract roles that may suit your skills.

Reminder: it’s okay to say “no” to opportunities that won’t earn you the income you need.

Finding Work to Support a Solo-Income Household

If you’re not employed, begin by finding gigs or short-term roles just to start earning your “rainy day” money.  This lays the foundation for financial stability after divorce.

Step 1: Networking

Then, reach out to your professional contacts. Your network is often one of the best ways to find job opportunities and get referred to new positions. Check out local women’s networking meetups in your area, too! They let you meet potential employers, learn about new leads, and make new friends — which is so vital and empowering during a divorce.

Step 2: Career Planning

Once your job search is in motion, sit down and start brainstorming your next career steps. What did you do before you became a stay-at-home mom? What did you study in school?

Make a list of your career goals and values:

  • What you’d most like to do for work
  • What’s important to you in a workplace
  • The skills you currently have that are in demand
  • The skills you’d like to develop or improve
  • The geographic region you’d like to live/work in, if different from where you currently live in Texas

In each step of this process, remind yourself: you have the power to forge a financially independent and personally fulfilling lifestyle. At the end of the day, a job is simply a tool to help you achieve your goals.

Step 3: Embrace a Growth Mindset

Never assume you won’t be able to find work because you’ve been a stay-at-home mom or employed only part-time. The key is to promote yourself as a uniquely skilled individual — and often, prospective employers choose over a passionate willingness to learn and an innovative curiosity in candidates. These things can’t be taught or trained, but as moms and homemakers, we’re often well-developed in these areas!

And again, lean into your professional network, or start growing one. When you’re referred to a job, you’re four times more likely to get an offer than by simply applying.

TIP: Always vet any opportunity to make sure it’s legitimate. Watch out for red flags, such as “jobs” that ask you to spend money to get started. This is especially likely for “work-from-home” or “earn from your phone” gigs, and these scammers often target single women and stay-at-home moms.

What about alimony?

Alimony or spousal maintenance may be available when divorce would leave the dependent spouse in a financial bind. It’s meant to replace the money and property that supported the spouse during marriage.

At this stage in your divorce journey, though, it’s too soon to tell how much, if any, alimony you would receive. It depends on whether domestic violence occurred, the length of marriage, whether you or your child has a disability, and other factors. Even if your premarital contract allows for alimony, it’s not always fully enforceable.

Focus on empowering yourself as your own provider, at least until the divorce is finalized. In the meantime, document your financial needs as much as possible. Reach out for help if you experience violence in your marriage. Here is a list of supportive resources from the Texas Family Violence Program.

Arranging Your Finances as a Single Mom (or Head of Household)

Texas is a community property state, which means any assets or money earned during the marriage is considered to belong to both partners. However, Texas law allows assets to be distributed in a way that’s “just and right.” If you’re earning your own money and depositing it into your own account, you’re making a good case for yourself.

Set up your individual accounts

Whether you’re already employed or seeking work, go ahead and start opening your own financial accounts: a checking and savings account at the minimum.

Sometimes, stay-at-home moms don’t have an established credit history, which can be an obstacle to renting a home or buying a car. Go ahead and apply for a line of credit in your name only. Many creditors offer secured cards, which require a cash deposit if your score is low due to a lack of credit history.

You might also consider turning your income into non-cash assets in your name, such as certificates of deposit and investments. This works for your kids, too: you can set up a trust or custodial investment account for your child, which will belong to them once they reach a certain age.

Evaluate shared accounts

As soon as possible, consider closing any joint account. If it must remain open, it’s usually better to transfer money into it from your individual account rather than having your income deposited into it. Avoid withdrawing cash from the joint account for your solo expenses.

If you have joint lines of credit, close them as soon as you agree to divorce. Get your free annual credit report and take careful note of the current balances and creditors.

NOTE: This is only general information and does not constitute advice. Speak to your financial advisor and divorce lawyer to find the best course of action for your situation.

Get Ready to Become the Breadwinner

No matter your situation, remind yourself that you deserve health and happiness. Divorce is often a difficult and confusing situation, but you have the power to become independent — financially, logistically, and emotionally. Careful planning now can help you build financial stability after divorce: a career you’ll love while keeping your role as a mother and provider.

Considering filing for divorce in Texas, or looking for compassionate legal help in the Dallas, TX area? At Alexandra Geczi Family Law, we’re women supporting women throughout the divorce process. Reach out to us for a consultation, and let’s set you on your journey toward financial independence and a life you love.

All content presented here is for educational and entertainment purposes and does not constitute legal advice.