What every mom should ask for in a divorce

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Divorce and custody negotiations are stressful. How do you know what things to ask for in divorce?

It's easy to want to plow through negotiations as quickly as possible.

Slow your roll. 

Below is a list of what every woman should consider when settling her divorce.

Keep in mind two things:

  1. An amicable divorce is far, far less expensive, less draining, and sets the stage for positive co-parenting long-term. Consider filing your divorce online with an agreement from a company like 3StepDivorce, which costs just $299 for all your divorce papers, instructions for filing, has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating, and a 100% money-back guarantee.
  2. Take care of your mental health during this stressful time. BetterHelp is an A+ Better Business Bureau rated online therapy site that connects you with a certified, credentialed therapist for unlimited messaging and weekly live sessions, starting at $35/week. 10% discount for new members. Financial assistance available. Therapy for individuals, teens, couples. Check out BetterHelp now >>

But first, some common divorce questions:

Is divorce better than an unhappy marriage?

This is a very personal question that only you can answer, and of course you are still married so you do not know. I have met only a few people who say they regret their divorces, but some do. Some research suggests that unhappy couples become happy if they stick it out. A 2002 study found that two-thirds of unhappy adults who stayed together were happy five years later.

How do I tell my husband I don't love him anymore and want a divorce?

Some people ask: How do I politely ask for a divorce?

Polite is not the goal. If your husband is a reasonable person, sit down with him, face-to-face, at home. Be kind, but straight-forward. “I appreciate these years together, but I don't love you anymore and I want a divorce.”

Clarity is kindness!

If you are in an abusive relationship, then plan ahead, secure a new home, and in the same day do the following:

  • Move out
  • Separate yourself from any shared banking and investment accounts
  • Have your attorney send a letter that you intend to file for divorce.

I'm scared to tell my husband I want a divorce.

It is totally normal to tell your husband or wife you want a divorce. This is what you risk:

  • Hurting your husband
  • A big fight
  • Violence
  • A divorce means you will be poorer than you are now
  • You will be lonely
  • Your kids will be hurt
  • You may lose friends and contact with loved ones
  • You may have to move from a home and community you love
  • You may feel guilty

How to tell your husband you want a divorce when he doesn't?

Again, assuming he is a reasonable person, it is important to be kind, straight-forward and honest. Don't lend any false hope or make promises you cannot keep, like “we can still be friends,” etc. However, this is a trauma, and expect that he will be very mad, and perhaps a little crazy. Most people get at least a little unreasonable when their lives fall apart — especially if they feel they have no control over the matter.

You, your kids, and your husband are all best served by seeking out an amicable, low-conflict divorce if at all possible.

If he doesn't want the divorce, and he is not a reasonable or nice person, then you need to protect yourself and your kids first. Get a good lawyer, make sure you have your own money, in your own name, that he cannot access, and prepare to tap into your deepest reservoirs of strength.

How to divorce without a lawyer

There are many options for divorcing without an attorney: You can sit down at the kitchen table and work it out between the two of you, you can work with a mediator — either a certified divorce mediator, or a therapist, attorney, financial planner or even a trusted friend who can help sort out difficult points of negotiation.

Together you will create a divorce settlement agreement outlining everything your state requires you to agree on, as well as any other items that are important to you, regarding sharing custody and expenses of the kids, and splitting any assets you have and how each of you will behave moving forward (for example, that neither of you will speak ill of the other one to family or friends).

Using online divorce paper services can be helpful in collecting all the necessary divorce papers for your state, and getting instructions for how to file them.

Then, you file all the divorce papers in your local courthouse, pay the related fees, and then wait for them to be processed. Some states require that you appear in court for the finalization, but others will simply mail you your final divorce papers.

Many divorcing couples use a hybrid approach: working out most of the details between the two of you, but having a family attorney review your final settlement to make sure that there are no technical errors, and that both parties' interests are represented in a fair way.

Divorcing a narcissist husband

Rebecca Zung, top-rated divorce attorney and divorced mom herself, has a whole video course on how to divorce a narcissist, which I review in How to Negotiate With a Narcissist. Her tips include:

  1. Have a plan ready to execute before you tell your husband or wife you want a divorce:
    • Prepare a new place to live
    • Have your own cash money saved
  2. Hire a divorce attorney
    • Decide what parenting plan you want
    • Take your time to learn how to negotiate with a narcissist and win — to save yourself countless dollars, untold sums of stress and the potential to lose everything.
  3. Tell them in person that you are divorcing them as you walk out the door, or pack up in the middle of the night or while they are out of town, and have them served with divorce papers the next day. Do not give them a chance to manipulate you.

Divorcing your alcoholic husband

If your husband is an alcoholic or addict and is either actively using, or is in recovery but you worry will relapse, first, accept that it is not your job to save him. You are not responsible for his wellbeing, and in fact, were likely a co-dependent enabler. No more!

Take steps to protect you and your kids financially, physically and emotionally. It is OK and even healthy to be hopeful that you will one day have a amicable co-parenting relationship if and when he is sober, but until then you must work with your attorney to secure the wellbeing of you and the kids.

Divorcing your bipolar husband

Similar to addicts, living with and divorcing a bipolar spouse is very stressful, unpredictable and possibly dangerous for you, your kids, and your spouse. You are not responsible for their behavior and can only protect yourself and your kids.

Divorcing a husband who won't work

If your husband refuses to work, you may find yourself paying child support or alimony — at least for a short time. Judges are increasingly intolerant of divorced people who try to live off of payments from their exes, and yours may be ordered to work. Because our culture is a sexist one, there is less tolerance for men who do not work and live off of women's income.

Here is my advice to women who pay alimony or child support.

What should a woman ask for in a divorce settlement?

If you are divorcing, you are likely hearing all kinds of toxic messages about how you should manage your settlement. Statements like:

Take him for all he's worth!

Make sure you keep the house!

The kids belong with you!

Make the bastard pay!

Even if you have the best of intentions of being fair and civilized, you are likely afraid, confused and overwhelmed by this legal process, and major life change.

Here is a practical guide of items to address in your divorce — whether you are working with a family attorney, or have an amicable divorce you are filing online after agreeing to terms with your soon-to-be ex.

If I divorce my husband what am I entitled to?

Thanks to no-fault divorce laws in every state, it doesn't matter who leaves who, or what the reasons are for divorce — the norms and laws are the same. These laws vary by state, but typically in divorce wives are entitled to:

  • Equitable distribution. That means that any assets acquired during the marriage are split 50/50. So, any value accumulated in your home or other real estate, the value of your 401(k) or other portfolio investments that were contributed to and grew during the marriage itself (not the engagement or time you lived together) is split in half.
  • Child support and maybe alimony. If the husband is the bigger earner, and the couple has children, the wife is likely entitled to child support based on a support calculator for their state. She will also likely share the kids' out-of-pocket expenses based on what each parent earns.

Thankfully, there are many ways to divorce in an affordable, low-cost way. These include:

Use of a mediator, or a single, neutral third-party to help negotiate the divorce agreement (opposed to each spouse hiring a combative, expensive attorney).


Is your ex a narcissist?

Rebecca Zung is a Los Angeles divorce attorney whose 4-hour course, How to Negotiate with a Narcissist, will teach you:

  • What manipulation tactics to expect from a narcissist in a divorce and how to shut them down​
  • How to develop a winning, foolproof strategy to drive the outcome you want ​
  • How to create strong leverage which will motivate and incentivize the narcissist to want to resolve your issues​
  • How to anticipate what the narcissist will do and be two steps ahead of them at all times 
  • ​How to focus on you, building your strong case, your confidence level, and how to develop a victorious mindset 
  • Membership in NarcSlayers© Facebook group — your built-in support group
  • Bonuses:
    • Communication Section with actual scripts you can use to respond to emails and texts, and what to say to the narcissist to disarm them,
    • 50 Key Phrases to Disarm the Narcissist
    • Questions for Vetting a Lawyer When Dealing with a Narcissist
    • Outline and workbook to help you stay on track and follow throughout the course so you don’t miss any steps.

Get $200 OFF How to Negotiate with a Narcissist with coupon code WSM200 >>

Get $200 OFF How to Negotiate with a Narcissist with coupon code WSM200 >>


Why not to fight your ex for child support, alimony or other money

Money is often cited as the No. 1 thing divorcing couples fight over. Financial disagreements clog the courts and wrack up attorney bills — not to mention burn untold units of stress and misery for each party, their children and anyone within earshot.

This money-related financial tension carries over after breakups and divorce. Often, women tell me that they can't move forward with their lives because they are stuck financially because of money their ex owes. They tell me: I can't afford to go back to school / advance my career by traveling or taking additional responsibilities because there is no money for child care — because he won't pay. 

He may very well owe you that money. Morally and legally, you may be entitled to it.

But sometimes you can be so right, you are wrong. After all, the average sum of child supported ordered monthly is less than $300, and total child support owed is actually paid just 40 percent of the time. What if you let that all go and focused on earning big, big money. I want every woman to understand what it feels like to be financially independent. Only then do you truly step into your power, and live your life in the biggest, most authentic way possible.

15 signs your wife or husband is ready for divorce—and what to do now

1. It costs you more in legal fees than you stand to receive 

Life is not fair. There are laws designed to protect women and children in divorce, and there is also the universal law of what is just. But there is also the legal system, and it is messed up, unfair and is designed to support mainly the rich. Unless you're Elin Nordegren and Tiger Woods, there is often a very low threshold to cross before it stops making sense to spend money on lawyers to get what you are owed. Do the math. Then take a deep breath. Let the breath go. And let that money go, too.

2. You're fighting for money he doesn't have

You can't get blood from a stone, as the old adage goes. Sure, he may owe you tens of thousands of dollars in back child support. You could have the courts take his car and send him to jail. But if you honestly know that he doesn't have that cash, do you really want to do that? Yes? What do you get in return?

How to deal if you're a woman/mom paying child support

3. You're building a lifestyle around someone else's money — that you may never get

When you create a budget based on money you get from someone else, you are dependent on them. This is never a good idea. For financial reasons, that money may never materialize — or suddenly disappear. Men's child support and alimony doesn't show up if he loses his job, becomes disabled and cannot work, dies, refuses to pay for whatever reason, or has another child and is allowed by the courts to pay less. Plus, don't you just want to stop fighting and earn your own money? Doesn't that sound really, really delicious — to never be dependent on him or another man again?

Why alimony hurts gender equality

Close the pay gap? Get dads involved? No child support and shared parenting

4. You're fighting for money in divorce out of spite

Anger and spite are normal. God knows I've spent a lot of time being pissed at my ex! But exuding all that negative energy to take revenge is not a good reason to fight for money — even if you're entitled to it. Good reasons include providing a better life for yourself and your kids and/or because the money is genuinely yours.

[7 single-mom stereotypes that keep women broke, exhausted and alone]

5. He needs the money more than you do

Maybe each of your financial situations have changed. Maybe you have indeed moved on and are now killing it financially. Maybe he lost his job and is struggling. Maybe you're both stable, but you see that the money in question could help him out a whole lot more than it could help you. And now that you've moved forward, and you are no longer spiteful and angry, you have the energy to do the right thing.

[17 highly paid work-at-home careers for moms]

6. Fighting for money is exhausting and bad for the kids

Divorce is one of the most stressful, draining crises a person can go through. In many cases — especially if there are children and significant assets involved — it is worth taking your time with a good lawyer to negotiate a fair settlement. But until the mailman delivers the manilla envelope containing your signed divorce decree, you will likely feel that your whole world is in limbo. Letting some stuff go moves everyone forward — including the kids.

After all, the more conflict between you and your ex, for whatever reason, means the children suffer at the hands of it. He might legally owe you, but sometimes you can be so right you're wrong.

Co-parenting is your priority now, and that is hard to do peacefully if you are fighting over money. Read my tips on how to co-parent with your ex, peacefully, as well as all the science-based research on why equally shared parenting is best.

One of the first co-parenting apps, and widely used app, OurFamilyWizard, which features chat, information storage (like pediatrician and teacher contact info, prescriptions, etc.), and financial record-keeping. 30-day free trial,  discounts for military families, and a program to provide OurFamilyWizard free to low-income families. Each parent can add unlimited numbers of other people for free, including children, grandparents, step and bonus parents, as well as attorneys.

Try OurFamilyWizard for free for 30 days now >>

Read OurFamilyWizard review on Wealthysinglemommy.com >>

7. You hold yourself back when you fight your ex for money

Deepak Chopra tells us that human beings have infinite energy, and I accept that to be true. But we are also physical beings living in the real world, and a girl only has so much energy to go around.

When you are dependent on his money, you are dependent on HIM. Dependence is never healthy. It holds you back, keeps you embroiled in a romantic relationship that is over, with someone who you likely don't care for much.

You have a choice: Spend your time, energy and power to fight with him, or invest that time and energy and power in yourself to earn far more money than he owes you from his 401(k). After all, when it comes to earning and building wealth, the sky is the limit!

[7 ways to get your single mom money act together this month—once and for all!]

My mantra: The best revenge is living well.

Divorce checklist: Things to ask for in a divorce settlement agreement

Keep reading for details about what you should expect to cover in your divorce settlement negotiations, which will likely include:

  • Division of assets (real estate, investments, other property)
  • Division of custody and time sharing of kids
  • Child support/ alimony

If you are doing your own amicable divorce, learn more about where to get cheap divorce papers in your state and how to file them.

Things to ask for in a divorce: co-parenting plan

Equal parenting time

I elaborate in detail here why equally shared parenting time in divorce is so important for children and women.

By asking your kids' dad to take responsibility as a parent — and not just ‘give' him minimum ‘access' to, or ‘visits' with his kids — it dramatically reduces the conflict between you, dramatically increases the chances he will be actively involved (and not skip out on parenting), and that he will pay any support or extras that is required of him.

Also, when you have a co-parent who equally shares time caring for the kids, this means you have more time to work and earn — which is good for the whole family.

I know it can be hard — I was adamantly opposed to this initially — but expecting equal time of both parents is good for kids, parents, men, and feminism.

Co-parenting mandates

This can include mandated co-parenting classes, regular, scheduled meetings with your ex, as well as your significant others (or other relatives actively involved in your kids' lives, like grandparents who live nearby).

By initiating things to ask for in a divorce on the front-end, you set a precedent for collaboration and communication that can carry you forward for the rest of your kids' lives.

Best online parenting classes — including co-parenting programs

Right of first refusal

This means that if one parent can't be with the kids on their assigned days, the other parent has first dibs on that time.

How to create a co-parenting plan

You can create a parenting plan without an attorney by using RocketLawyer, as well as work out details now, and ongoing (because — trust me! — life changes in ways you can't expect!) as well as a family or couples therapist.

Co-parenting apps like Our Family Wizard, which has a free 30-day trial can be part of this plan.

Our Family Wizard coparenting app review

One of the first co-parenting apps, and widely used app, OurFamilyWizard's features include messaging, information storage, and financial record-keeping, and a unique ToneMeter feature to help keep communication drama-free.

Military discounts, fee waiver program, and a free, 30-day trial make Our Family Wizard accessible to most families. $99/year per parent. B+ Better Business Bureau rating. Check out Our Family Wizard now >>

29 tips for better co-parenting—including with a difficult ex

Coparent communication

You can establish how often you and your co-parent communicate, the amount of time each of you has to respond to a message, and modes of communicating required (text, say, opposed to phone or email — whatever you both agree on).

You will likely agree to keep each other abreast of any medical or academic challenges faced by your children, as well as behavioral or emotional issues outside of normal kid stuff.

Coparent schedule

This schedule can work any number of ways:

  • One week on, one week off with each parent
  • Two weeks on, two weeks off with each parent
  • Every-other-weekend, plus some weeknights with each parent
  • The 3-4-4-3: three days with one parent, four days with the other parent, four days with the first parent and then three days with the other parent
  • Two-days on, two days off (more appropriate for smaller children)

Summers, holidays and school breaks are also up for discussion and the co-parenting schedule, and should also be shared equally for sake of equal responsibility in parenting, as well as equal rights and enjoyment of the kids!

Guidelines for holiday and vacation schedules

This is a great opportunity to lay out how you will share special occasions and holidays with your ex.

However, keep in mind that you will need to be flexible and accommodating.

Life is long and complex — and both of you will likely seek and need this to be fluid going forward.

Shared time for vacation

Shared responsibility for caring for kids on summer, school holidays, breaks, half-days and when kids are sick. See above.

This time can be seen as a blessing or a burden, but it must be taken care of, and it is both parents' responsibility to arrange care or take time off work.

We can't close the pay gap until this happens.

Instead of arguing with your ex about taking time off, find a great sitter on Care.com and agree to share costs.

Safety

Routine safety provisions in the other parent's home: No guns, window locks, smoke alarms, etc.

How to deal if you are woman who pays alimony or child support

Coming-of-age celebrations

Depending on your family's heritage and traditions, it may be important to you and your kids' dad to prioritize saving for and sharing the cost of celebrating your kids' bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, graduations, communion, baptisms, quinceanera, and prom.

Coparent calendar

It is important to create a shared co-parenting calendar, whether you use Google Calendar, or a scheduler in a co-parenting app. These calendars can be amended as both parties agree, as well as shared with nannies and babysitters, grandparents, and the kids themselves as the get smart phones.

Things to ask for in a divorce: relationship building

Whether it is working on your new co-parenting relationship, supporting your children through the trauma of divorce, or starting to date again, this is a time of relationship transitions. A few things to consider in your divorce negotiations:

When each starts dating, who is allowed to be around the kids? Is a new partner allowed to spend the night? Can I meet the girlfriend or boyfriend first?

I elaborate on they whys of this in this post on co-parenting and dating, but in summary:

Clauses restricting your kid's other parent from introducing a new boyfriend or girlfriend to the kids is only based in control and jealousy, and is not enforceable. Plus, if you find you a new partner is introduced, what do you want to happen? Drag your ex to court to be spanked by a judge? What happens if you do meet the new woman and you don't like her? You don't get a say in whether she will be your children's new stepmom.

In short: Skip these clauses, and focus on healing your hurt, jealousy and totally normal sense of loss of control. Trust me: It gets better.

Therapy for kids and teens

No matter how civil your breakup, therapy is hard for the children. Write into the parenting order that both parties are responsible for paying for and transporting kids to therapy sessions.

If time, money, and choice of counselor for your teen or child is an issue, consider online therapy sites like BetterHelp. Prices start at $35/week for unlimited messaging and weekly live sessions. Financial assistance available. Choose from thousands of licensed and certified therapists, and conduct sessions by phone, video, chat or email. Use this link to get 10% off and get connected with a therapist immediately >>

Ongoing mediation or counseling after divorce for co-parents

Peaceful co-parenting requires frequent, ongoing communication. Especially initially after a breakup or divorce when emotions are at a fever-peak, this can be incredibly hard.

Instead of duking it out via text and screaming at one another on the front lawn in front of the kids and neighbors, and in place of continuing with expensive attorneys who are incentivized to amp up conflict, consider writing into your separation agreement or parenting plan ongoing family or couples therapy.

Online therapy can be a great option in these cases, as it is very affordable, anonymous, convenient, and since you and your ex will connect with the counselor via video, phone or text, you don't even have to be in the same room!

Check out online therapy now >>

Things to ask for in a divorce: documentation

When you were married all the important documents residence in one home. Now, where do they live?

Who holds birth certificates, Social Security cards and passports for the children?

If there is a flight risk or other serious issues in your custody arrangement, the primary custody parent will likely be granted holding rights for important documents. In any case, make this clear in your settlement.

Passport and written permission to travel internationally with the kids (or not)

Whether you have family in another country, envision vacationing abroad, or otherwise, every mom needs to establish this now, including if you have actual legal reason to worry your kids' dad will kidnap your kids abroad and want to make sure this is addressed at the time of travel.

Alternatively, make sure you get in writing that you have permission to travel internationally with your kids.

You may assume that you and your ex are on the same page when it comes to exposing your children to the world, or visiting relatives abroad.

However, your relationship with your ex could become contentious at any time, and that Mexico trip you planned for winter break can become rife with conflict.

Better to make this clear on the front-end.

Download forms for:

Fair share of child care, after-school, camp and extracurricular activities

Especially if your kids are tiny, it can be hard to imagine that one day they may require thousands of dollars annually in these costs, but ask any parent: They add up to a lot.

Each parent should be expected to pay their share, dependent upon income (which will likely change in which case you will revisit the equation).

Care and estate planning for disabled children

Make sure there are provisions to continue support and related care indefinitely.

Companies like Rocket Lawyer help you create a legally binding estate plan and will for an affordable fee.

More on estate planning for single parents.

Things to ask for in a divorce: money and marital property

Assets and debts are equally divided in divorce typically. You also must consider ongoing expenses for the kids. What you need to know:

Who is responsible for the debt after divorce?

Like it or not, there is a good chance that any credit card, student, tax, personal, medical, auto and real estate debt acquired during the marriage is the responsibility of both spouses. It doesn't matter who racked up the credit card bills or insisted on the new Land Rover. You're both on the hook.

More about how property is divided in a divorce

Credit card, tax and personal loan debt

Like it or not, legally, you are likely on the hook for any debt accrued during the marriage.

Dig up documentation of all statements, including interest rates and due dates. If you are ready to start tackling debt, start here: How single moms can pay off debt in 14 easy steps

Check on your options for a 0% credit card transfer now >>

Student loans

Student debt taken on before you married is likely going to stay with the person who signed the loan.

However, if the debt was assumed during the marriage, it is likely the responsibility of both parties, at least to some degree, and can get messy.

Come to the table with all information can collect, including dates the deeds were signed, terms of the loans, whether the loans were used just for school, books and fees, or also living expenses.

Jeff Landers expands on this topic at Forbes.

Any lawsuits, including bankruptcies

Sort these out now! Rocket Lawyer has bankruptcy resources to assist you.

Learn more about how to get through divorce without going bankrupt — or manage your divorce if you are already in the midst of a Chapter 11.

Who is entitled to the house in a divorce?

If the house is owned by both the wife and husband, and it was purchased during the marriage, typically both spouses are entitled to equal shares of the equity. There are pros and cons to keeping a house in a divorce — and may not be financially possible for you. There are several ways to distribute this income:

  • One spouse keeps the house, and buys the other out via cash-out refinance.
  • Sell the house and split the proceeds.
  • One spouse keeps the house, and takes less of a retirement distribution or other marital asset in return.

If you choose to refinance the home in order to buy out your ex, Credible will get you pre-qualified in 3 minutes, provides offers shortly after, and allows you to upload all documents online. Get prequalified for a mortgage refinance in 3 minutes with Credible now >>

Life insurance policies in divorce settlement

Every mom needs a life insurance policy, even moms with no income of their own.

Your kids should be named as beneficiaries.

This life insurance calculator from Bestow will help you understand what you need, and how much it will cost you. Bestow offers policies up to $1 million of insurance, and plans starting at $8/month. Bestow guarantees no medical exam or lab tests, ever.

Get a Bestow life insurance quote now >>

Long-term care insurance in divorce settlement

Especially for women aged 50 and older, you need a plan to pay for long-term care insurance.

About 70 percent of people in the U.S. will require some kind of long-term care in their lives, and 18 percent of women will require it for 5 or more years.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that it costs on average $92,376 per year for long-term care in a nursing home.

The wife gets the wedding and engagement ring in divorce

Typically, anything that was given as a gift is considered the property of the gift recipient. This includes an engagement ring or other bridal jewelry, as well as any rings, necklaces, bracelets, brooches or earrings that you received as a gift throughout the relationship. You can keep these, or sell your jewelry for cash — up to you.

If you have gold or platinum wedding bands, or other jewelry, CashforGoldUSA is an A+ Better Business Bureau rated gold, diamond and precious metals buyer that pays within 24 hours, and pays a 10% bonus if you send in your item within 7 days. Get a free estimate from CashforGoldUSA now >>

Worthy is the leading online site to diamond engagement rings via a secure online auction, and insures up to $100,000. Learn more about Worthy and get a free estimate for your jewelry now, in minutes >>

Separation of credit and bank accounts

Divorce and breakups are some of the most common times when credit fraud can occur.

Fighting exes can steal your personal information to take on loans or open credit cards in your name, fail to pay debts they agreed to, and, sadly, it is common to steal children's identities, too.

The three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, all provide credit scores and reports, but in slightly different ways. You can get your free FICO credit score and report from Experian now to see where you stand.

Then, make sure to remove your name from any accounts attached to your ex's. Open bank and credit card accounts in your own name, and make sure that you are not on the hook to make car, student loan or mortgage payments that are not yours. 

Check out CIT Bank's money market accounts, which has one of the highest rates on the market at 0.55% APY, as of November, 2020.

Looking for a credit card? Compare credit cards at CardRatings.com.

College tuition for the kids

Some states like Illinois require that divorced parents pay a share of college costs.

Establish how much each parent must contribute to a college investment fund, or pay at the time of enrollment.

One tactic that works for many families: Once kids age out of child care, reallocate those funds to a 529 college investment account.

How to file for divorce in Texas

Who claims children on taxes

Many families either take turns claiming the kids or otherwise equally split the deductions in an equitable way, for example, divvying up health insurance, child care or other kid-related deductions.

If your ex has a history of not paying his share, make sure you take the deductions.

A tax professional at TurboTax can help you minimize your taxes.

Read More: What single moms and dads need to know about taxes

Health insurance after divorce

Decide what makes sense for covering the kids, and equitable payment for premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.

Typically this is divided equitably based on each spouse's income.

If one of you has a generous health benefit through your employer, then it may make sense for that parent to assume this responsibility.

Private school tuition

If your kids will continue to attend private school, or religious school, nail down during divorce who will pay for tuition, books, uniforms, school trips and other related fees.

Collect the divorce documents

To best negotiate and prepare for a divorce or breakup, get all of these documents in order:

You will need all of these documents to be able to appropriately settle your divorce.

It's a lot, but the sooner you collect them all in one place, the easier this process:

Bank accounts.

These include checking, savings accounts, CDs, money market accounts.

List of all assets of any value

If there is any question, get them appraised. These can include:

  • Real estate
  • Jewelry
  • Art
  • Cars and other vehicles of significant value. Check the value at KellyBlueBook.com
  • Time share
  • Any personal items of significant resale value, such as clothes, handbags, sports equipment, furniture, furs, electronics

Names and birth date of minor children you have together

Retirement accounts

Retirement accounts that you need to consider include IRAs, Roth IRAs, 401(k)s, SEP IRAs, 403(b)s, 457's Thrift Savings Plans, TIAA-CREF,  pensions and Social Security benefits.

This will all need to be discussed and likely divided, in your split.

How to get started investing for women

Keep in mind that investments are likely to be lower in an economic downturn. Learn how to use a recession for your financial advantage.

Income information: Pay stubs, tax returns

Tax filings

  • Copies of state and federal tax returns for the previous three (3) years and all corresponding W-2 or 1099 statements.
  • Copies of corporate tax returns for the previous three (3) years if one or both spouses have a business.
  • Related post: What single moms and dads need to know about taxes

Life and disability policies

Every parent of a minor-aged child needs life insurance, no matter how much money you earn, or whether you are dependent on child support, public benefits or others' generosity. Fortunately, there are affordable, and easy ways to find affordable life insurance for almost every budget.

I recommend getting a quote from this life insurance calculator from Bestow, which will help you understand what you need, and how much it will cost you. Bestow offers policies up to $1 million of insurance, and plans starting at $8/month. Bestow guarantees no medical exam or lab tests, ever.

You need disability insurance more than life insurance. Those who do not have disability insurance through a job, including the self-employed, can find individual coverage through reputable companies for an affordable price. Breeze disability insurance plans start at $9/month for people aged 18 to 60 years old, with monthly benefits ranging from $500 to $20,000. Breeze promises no medical exam. Get a free quote in minutes from Breeze >>

Learn more about how to find disability insurance if you are self-employed.

Will and estate document

Even more important now than ever, as a single parent, if you do not have a will, you need a last will and testament (also known as a legal will), as well a living will.

LegalZoom.com can also help you with the process.

Related: Rocket Lawyer review

Divorce checklist

These are the most important documents you need to get your divorce started — and filed.

This FREE divorce worksheet from RocketLawyer is a good place to start the conversation — whether you are working with attorneys or directly with your ex.

  • A fair, equitable co-parenting plan
  • Division of assets, including how you will split any retirement accounts, real estate equity, investment accounts and savings
  • Division of debt accrued during the marriage: credit cards, mortgages, personal loans, student debt, car notes, business loans and debt
  • Childcare, health insurance and other out-of-pocket expenses for the kids

Are you in New York City or New York state? What to know about divorcing in NY.

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist and author. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Emma's Top Single Mom Resources.

20 Comments

My divorce will go thru March 4th. We sat down as adults and with very little fighting agreed on all terms. Shared custody of a 15 year old, division of assets, selling the house, detailed (25pg) parenting plan, suppusal support. What I seem to have forgotten is social security. My question is is eligibility for (partial) of his SS have to be in initial divorce documents or we cross that bridge at 62. We have been married 25 years and I earn half what he does. Thanks

Thank you for this post. Lots of good info. Me, being a stay at home dad has had a difficult time with all this. For about 7 yrs my wife has worked and i have been at home. Soon after she stopped helping doing anything at home. Her routine became come home, get changed. Play on her phone, go too bed. So when i mentioned that things when working for us she flipped. She told me I was screwing her over. Our 15 yr old son wants to go with me because his mom kind of ignores him, his school stuff, and his sports. Our 18 yr old daughter is away in college. She said she saw this coming. We will need to sell the house. It will suck with all the work I put into it, but it is what it is. But she is insisting that women should get the kids and the house and I should just move out and go live in a box under a bridge. She also thinks NOW that i have a girlfriend, and that is what she is telling everyone. Truth is….i just dont have the heart for a woman anymore. I dont want to date, be intimate, Or even have a female friend. I have “tried” that( marriage ) for the past 20 yrs and apparently I suck at it.

So i see this is gonna be a difficult road, and she will fight me on everything. But i dont hate her, i just want the pain too stop. I would let her walk away with everything if she would let me just be.

Don’t just lay down and let her walk over you. You’ll regret it. Divorce takes time and allow yourself the dignity to go through with this with your head held high.

After my life was imploded by a cheating husband, I am just now meeting with attorney’s, and trying to figure out what I need to ask and do.
Thanks for the extra tips that I had not thought of. I’ll be making sure that the attorney mentions these as well.

Child support is the way to help pay living expenses. Any parent who is really a parent should want to be a part of anything else above and beyond that and help pay for it. Do they want their child seeing them not help out or the child suffer and not get to do extra stuff because they won’t help? I, MYSELF, would not want to be seen as “that parent” by my kids.
The more the decree is detailed and spelled out, the less there is to fight about. You MUST think of everything that may come up for all years to come. Consider adding when in the other parents care, they are to supply all needs for the child, give all prescribed meds whether they agree with it or not, taken to all extra-curricular activities while they have them, and so many more. THINK HARD about anything that may come up and talk to others who have gone through issues!!!! Great article!!

I have custody of my child does “The right of first right to refusal” apply only to the receiving parent? For example, If the parent who is scheduled to be responsible for the child is not able to be with and care for the child at the time during scheduled child visitation.

I’m looking out for the best interest for my child and would rather not have my child being pawned off to other family/friends members while he’s away working traveling out of state when he is supposed to being spending time with our child. We clearly live on opposite ends, him in the West Coast and I and the East Coast.

How can this matter be stipulated into the divorce paperwork?

i have been married for the past 10 years, Eight months ago my husband left me for another woman. on my search to get him back i came across this spell caster called DR. MUNA with so much comment about his wonderful work. i never believed this man could help me, but as a result of my frustration i decided to give a try And it worked out for me because i was able to afford the spiritual items required. it took me 48 hours just as he said and my lovable and caring husband came back home begging. You can talk to DR MUNA via marvelspelltemple @ gmail. com if you think you need his help? he can save your marriage too

How do you insist on no guns in the house? This has been an issue our entire marriage. My husband refuses to get rid of them or keep them elsewhere, not even his parents house because it would be too burdensome for them (ha!) or a gun range because it would be too expensive.. He’s done nothing but purchase more gunsand not tell me about it. Marriage counseling has helped me deal with his BS bit not improved our relationship. Ideas?

My husband and I were just granted full custody of his 11, 9 and 4 year old Jan 29th, 2018.
The reason was their mom denied him his visitation numerous times and he documented it thru police reports. Emails and texts from her and her fiance proved she was trying to alienate their dad.

Thanks ! EMMA JOHNSON You shard such a beautiful story as blogs . rally I fell happy. wonderful massages you shared. Family Law provides the voice of reason, strategy and compassion when you feel that your world is crumbling around you.

Regaed
E.Wilson

Most of the list that wbat child support is for. Child support, because the the writer obviously has never heard of it, is money for the children. Asking for even more money for child activities, insurance, college tuition etc is just hateful. The money my ex pays for our kids go right to the kids to cover all those things. He doesn’t doesn’t pay anything else.

Child support is for food and utilities used when the children are at the other parent’s house. It is not for extra activities. Also, those with 50/50 custody do not receive child support. So yes, extra money for these k8nd of activities should be asked for because they are not covered.

Child Support is for the normal day to day expenses of raising the child. Food, Shelter, Transportation, Clothing, etc. In TX, the max child support obligation is 40% of Net Income + max 9% for Medical Premiums. (and that’s assuming 5 kids+ since it is tiered) I *wish* I could care for my kids on 40% of my income, but I am like most parents, who directly uses at least 90% literally on the kids day to day expenses. Child Support is not tied to coparenting in all states, so if I have them for 75% of the time, that also means I am providing 75% of their grocery bills and utilities, which comes from child support but it certainly not equitable if he’s only paying 40% of his income. So no, the items on the list are not intended to be covered by Child Support rather it is the *minimum*. To add, age 18 termination is a crock too since most kids do not leave home just because they graduate or turn 18, so I would add to the list that provisions for that should be negotiated.

Recommending shared parenting with a personality disordered parent is wrong. Unfortunately, sometimes the non-disordered parent is so smeared by the disordered one that the legal and even mental health system cannot tell the difference. That is bad for kids, period.

Can I ask about number 10? My kids have their own beds at my house (I’ve got primary custody), however they do not at their father’s. They sleep on the floor or the couch…
Now, I’m not ok with this sleeping arrangement, but how do they mandate that the kids have their own beds?

This is a great list! It’s so important to have a good lawyer to talk through these with. In TX, if I had insisted on sharing college costs, I would have had to give up part of the community property settlement. In the end, they got financial aid of grants and scholarships since they went to in-state public universities and I had claimed them on my taxes, not their dad.

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