How Can A Stay-at-Home Mom Afford A Divorce? Experts Answer Your Divorce Questions

Allen Drexel in front of image of stay-at-home mom holding child

By Aghogho Boccardi

Featuring Allen A. Drexel

Partner Gallet Dreyer & Berkey, LLP

Are you thinking about getting a divorce as a stay-at-home mom? The decision to get a divorce is especially difficult for stay-at-home moms because they rely on their spouses for financial support.

Some of your fears may be about losing your kids and your home and not being able to afford health insurance. You may also fear returning to work after years of staying home.

In this article, I’ve compiled some common questions most stay-at-home moms have when they’re looking to get a divorce.

To make sure I provided the most accurate answers possible, I spoke to some divorce lawyers in different states to get their opinions. I even spoke to one based in Canada. Note that the responses from these attorneys are based on the divorce laws of their state. For more accurate information about divorce laws in your state, please consult an attorney where you live.

How Can A Stay-at-home Mom Afford a Divorce?

When you depend on your spouse for money, it can feel like you’re trapped when you want to leave your marriage.

Not being able to afford a divorce is one of the reasons some stay-at-home moms stay in their marriage. There are filing fees as well as other attorney fees to consider if the divorce is contested and drags on for a long time.

So how can a stay-at-home mom afford a divorce when she has no money? Below are some helpful tips.

Get Your Spouse To Pay Your Divorce Fees

One way a stay-at-home mom can afford a divorce is by getting her spouse to pay her divorce fees.

According to Vicki Shemin, a Massachusetts-based lawyer and social worker, “It is possible for a stay-at-home mom to seek payment of legal fees from her spouse directly or from their joint assets.

For example, in Massachusetts, the stay-at-home mom could file a document called a “Motion for Attorney’s Fees Pendente Lite.”

This filing allows for the Judge to provide an interim award of fees in order to “level the playing field” of access to justice. This ensures that the stay-at-home mom will have money to get a good lawyer to fight for her divorce.

Allen Drexel, a divorce lawyer based in NY, said something similar, “New York’s divorce statutes create a rebuttable presumption that the spouse with less money in a divorce action is entitled to payment of some portion of his/her counsel and expert fees by the spouse with more money. The amount of any fee award is subject to the discretion of the judge in any given case."

Mr. Drexel, J.D. also says that a stay-at-home mom with limited funds should consult with a divorce lawyer as early as they can. This will allow the lawyer to file this paperwork if their state law allows it because the request can take a long time to be granted by a judge.

Get A Side Hustle To Pay For Your Divorce

Another way a stay-at-home mom can afford a divorce is to work part-time or do freelance work.

Consider doing freelance work if your kids are a little older. Some freelance work you can do include driving for Uber or Lyft. You can also deliver food items for companies like DoorDash or InstaCart.

Some stay-at-home moms choose to work from home doing customer service jobs. Check out this article I wrote on 17 unique ways to make money from home. It was intended to help pregnant moms earn money from home, but it can work for anyone.

Working part-time or as a freelancer serves two purposes. The first is that you’ll be able to pay your divorce fees, as well as any lawyer fees that come up. You’ll also be easing yourself into the job market slowly. This is important because you may need to go back to work after your divorce.

Seek Out Free or Low-Cost Legal Services

If you can’t afford to pay for your divorce, you may be able to find some free or low-cost legal services in your state. Most states have programs that provide legal services for people who have low incomes. Check out this site to see the list of free or low-cost legal services in your state.

Find An Attorney To Take Your Case, Pro Bono

Some attorneys provide Pro Bono legal services to the public. Call up some divorce lawyers in your area and ask if they’ll be willing to take your case, Pro Bono.

Since divorce cases can take a very long time to finalize, it might be more difficult to find an attorney to take your case pro bono. Most attorneys want to get paid for their hard work, that’s why most Pro Bono cases aren’t divorce cases.

It’s better to find a free or low-cost legal service in your area if you want something cheap.

Now that we’ve discussed some ways stay-at-home moms can pay for a divorce let’s take a look at some other questions you may have about divorce.

Can A Stay-at-Home Mom Get Alimony In A Divorce?

A stay-at-home mom can get alimony in a divorce if the court orders it. The amount of alimony a stay-at-home mom receives is calculated based on the length of the marriage, the income of the spouse, the family’s lifestyle, and the age of the spouse.

Each state has its own formula for determining how much alimony a stay-at-home mom can get.

Patrick Kilbane, a former family law attorney in Florida, says that “State laws vary greatly on whether alimony (and what type of alimony) will be available to a stay-at-home mom.

“In Florida, the SAHM must have a need, AND her spouse must have the ability to pay the alimony. The SAHM mom could have all the need in the world for alimony, but if the spouse does not have the ability to pay it, the court cannot award alimony,” says Mr. Killbane.

To determine the amount and duration of the alimony in Florida, the court will consider the following factors:

  • The duration of the marriage.
  • The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
  • The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
  • The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.
  • The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.
  • The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.
  • The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment.
  • All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.
  • Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

According to Evan Schein, J.D., Esq., “there can be an award of alimony on a temporary basis while your divorce is in progress, and also an award of alimony when the divorce is final. The type of award you get is based on the court’s decision or by mutual agreement."

Things A Stay-at-Home Mother Should Ask For In A Divorce

Ask for a custody agreement

It’s important that a stay-at-home mom understand the custody agreement between her and her spouse. Make sure that you let your divorce lawyer know what type of custody you’d like to seek. They will advise you as to the best course of action.

Ask for child support payment

Another thing a stay-at-home mother should ask for in a divorce is child support. The majority of stay-at-home moms don’t earn money from home. They rely on their spouses for all financial support.

So it’s important to file for child support when you get a divorce so that you’ll still have money to care for your children.

Be weary if your spouse tells you not to file for child support because he’ll give you money when he can. I personally know a stay-at-home mom who had an out-of-court arrangement like this.

Her ex-husband stopped giving her money out of the blue one day. She had to take him to court eventually for child support. Not having a written agreement may work in the beginning, but things can change when the money runs out.

Without a court order, he’s not obligated to continue to provide financial support for his children. So it’s better to get court-ordered child support from the start.

Vicki Shemin, J.D., said that “If a SAHM is receiving a stream of income either from alimony and/or child support, it is critically important for there to be life insurance (and perhaps disability insurance) to guarantee that stream of income in the event something happens to the payor. The SAHM is also entitled to periodically ask for proof that the insurance remains in effect with her as the named beneficiary.

This is basically saying that you need to ensure that your spouse gets life insurance and disability insurance that names you as the beneficiary.

You do this so that if he can no longer pay child support or alimony due to his disability or death, you’ll still be able to get some benefits through his life insurance and disability insurance.

Ask for a fair division of all assets

Another thing a stay-at-home mom should ask for in a divorce is her share of the marital assets. Assets refer to any valuable things you and your spouse have accumulated during your marriage.

Examples of some assets a stay-at-home mom may be entitled to include; real estate properties, cars, 401K, pension, valuable jewelry, family, etc. You may also be entitled to parts of any investments, such as stocks, bonds, and brokerage accounts.

Ask that all debts be divided equally

A stay-at-home mom should ask that all marital debts be divided equally during the divorce.

Some examples of marital debts include car payments and other leases, mortgages, loans, etc. If any of these debts are in your name, you may be responsible for paying them after the divorce.

However, if the debt is in both your names, then you may be able to get your spouse to agree to pay his share as part of the divorce agreement.

Payment of legal fees

As stated previously, a stay-at-home mom can petition for her spouse to cover her legal fees during the divorce process. The laws concerning this differ for each state, so make sure you consult with an attorney on how to go about it.

Coverage of health insurance

A stay-at-home mom might lose her health insurance when she gets divorced because she’s usually under her husband’s plan.

That’s why it’s important to ask that her spouse continue to cover her health insurance as part of the divorce agreement until she can find one of her own.

Ask for continued payment for extra-curricular activities, tuition, childcare, etc.

If your spouse was previously responsible for paying for your children’s extracurriculars, tuition, and childcare, then you can ask that they continue to pay after the divorce.

You don’t want the divorce to affect your children’s school life, so make sure that there’s an agreement for your spouse to pay for these things.

What Other Benefits Can A Stay-at-Home Wife Get In A Divorce?

Compensation for lost career opportunities

One benefit a stay-at-home mom wife may be entitled to is compensation for her lost career opportunities.

Deepa Tailor, a lawyer based in Canada, states that “In some cases, a stay-at-home mom wife can also seek additional compensation for lost career opportunities due to her sacrifices in raising children or managing family responsibilities, while her husband was able to work outside of the home.

This type of compensation is often referred to as a “rehabilitative award.” The court will consider factors such as the amount of lost income, the extent to which the wife’s parenting or home-making duties affected her ability to pursue income-producing activities, and whether there are reasonable prospects for gainful employment for the wife.

FAQs About Stay-at-Home Moms and Divorce

1. How can a stay-at-home mom survive a divorce?

Ask for what you’re entitled to

A stay-at-home mom can survive a divorce by requesting payments for certain things that she may be entitled to. 

As listed above, some of the things a stay-at-home mom should ask for in a divorce include health insurance coverage and life insurance coverage.

Other things a stay-at-home mom can ask for in a divorce include custody of the children, payment of the children’s tuition, and childcare. All assets and debts you own together can also be split fairly.

Join a divorce support group

Going through a divorce can be a very isolating experience, especially if you’re the first in your friend/family to go through it.

Joining a divorce support group can help a stay-at-home mom survive a divorce.

These support groups provide a safe place to talk about your experience with like-minded people who can empathize with you.

Seek support from family and friends

A stay-at-home mom can survive a divorce by leaning on her family and friends.

They may be able to share some tips on how they survived. Seeking support from those closest to you who have experienced divorce themselves will help you get through the difficult time.

Remember your reasons for seeking a divorce in the first place

It’s important to remember the reason why you wanted a divorce in the first place. Was it due to cheating, abuse, or an irreconcilable difference?

Whatever the reason, remember that it was bad enough for you to decide that it’s better to be alone than to continue in your marriage.

When you keep this in mind, it’ll help you survive getting divorced.

Get a hobby

A hobby is a great distraction from life’s problems. Some of the best hobbies I’ve found are ones that involve the community and helping others.

Try volunteering in a soup kitchen or joining your church choir. Anything that gets you out of the house and interacting with others will work.

A good hobby will help you as a stay-at-home mom survive a divorce.

Go back to work

Another way to survive a divorce is to go back to work.

Focus on earning a living with a career that fulfills you. Knowing that you don’t have to rely on your spouse anymore will help boost your self-esteem.

Go back to school

If you’ve been a stay-at-home mom for a long time, then you’ve probably fallen behind in terms of work experience.

One way to increase your competitiveness in the job market is to go back to school to earn a new degree. Being able to earn a living on your own is one way to survive a divorce.

2. Do stay-at-home moms have to get a job after divorce?

If a stay-at-home mom was awarded alimony and child support after a divorce, and that money was enough to cover the cost of living, then she doesn’t have to get a job. Deciding whether to get a job after a divorce is a personal choice. Although, If you don’t have enough money to survive, then you will have to go back to work.

3. How can a stay-at-home mom afford health insurance after a divorce?

A stay-at-home mom can afford health insurance through her ex-husband or by getting coverage through a job.

As part of the divorce agreement, she can request that her spouse cover her health insurance for a particular period of time until she can get her own.

Final Thoughts on Stay-at-Home Mom Divorce

The decision to get a divorce is a very tough one. There are so many things to consider before ending a marriage.

If you’re thinking about getting a divorce, know that you’re not alone. Get a good divorce lawyer that will fight for your rights.

I hope the information in this article will help you figure out how to get a divorce as a stay-at-home mom.

about the attorney

Allen A. Drexel


Allen A. Drexel concentrates his practice on complex family law issues, including divorce, equitable distribution of business and financial assets, spousal and child support, contested child custody cases, paternity proceedings, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, and same-sex family law matters.

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