July 26, 2009,
T.D. asks from Walkersville, MD on July 24, 2009
Myself Divorce Advice
I am seeking some advice for my Mom. She and my Dad have decided to get a divorce. My sister is 17, and they are planning to wait until she graduates from High School next year before actually separating. She can't really afford to hire a lawyer and could really use some advice. She has been a stay-at-home mom for pretty much their entire marriage (30 years.)
Her biggest concern now is her financial security after the divorce. She has some health issues and isn't able to work a regular job. She does have a small business making jewelry and sells it at craft shows but that is not a steady source of income.
Financially, what would my father be required to provide for her? Also, another big concern is her health insurance. She is covered under his policy, what happens to that after they file for divorce?
1 mom found this helpful
So What Happened?™
Thanks for all the advice. I think my Mom will definitely have to hire a lawyer at some point, and luckily she has a little time to get herself organized and figure out her plan. She is also thinking about going back to school or trying to expand her business. I will be sure to tell her about all the suggestions and offers of help!
L.R. answers from Washington DC on July 24, 2009
T., she MUST get a lawyer. She has a little time before they separate, and she should start saving money immediately to get a lawyer. If she tries to navigate and negotiate all the details of money and insurance herself, she is very likely to end up without everything she should have from your father. Even if the divorce plans are very amicable and they're getting along better now that they know they're splitting (some couples do--they stop fighting etc. knowing the end is in sight), she should not just assume she can trust to his good will at the time of the actual legal divorce. Not that he won't be kind about providing something for her, but neither of them may know what she's entitled to under the law.
1 mom found this helpful
S.M. answers from Washington DC on July 24, 2009
She must get a lawyer. I hope others have ideas of how, but she could be very vulnerable if she doesn't, at her age with no retirement of her own.
Frankly, I think your father should help her get a lawyer. IF now, can you?? If she doesn't get wha tshe is entitled to in terms of support, it could be you and your sister supporting her in the future, which will cost a lot more than a lwyer now. This is what credit cards are made for.
In Fairfax County, you might contact Elderlink through the county cgovernment. They migh help.
One aspect of this is that she needs to make sure tha tyour sister's college is paid for by both parents, and that your father can't walk away from that. SOmetimes, that is part of the divorce degree.
N.B. answers from Washington DC on July 25, 2009
Hi, T. - I hope you get lots of great advice here. I know there are places to get free legal advice, and as long as the divorce is simple, you can "do it yourself." I hope your mom will let me help her. I work with a company that is growing, in spite of the economy. It is a really terrific, risk free, home-based business. Feel free to contact me, or have your mom contact me directly. Wishing you all the best of luck. N.
A.C. answers from Norfolk on July 25, 2009
T., I am so sorry to hear about your Mom and Dad's decision. Hope something comes along to change their mind, like a reality check...
In the meantime
First of all you can research your state's laws concerning divorce and what will get her the best settlement. If they choose to go with "irreconscilable differences" it will be just a settlement and it will be based on formulas.
A percent for years married
A percent for years married while he was employed with his company.
If he took money out of the household and used it improperly she can recover a share of that.
If she can prove that her health conditions limit her abiblity to work enough to live at the level she has been livbing at with your Dad, she can use that to help her obtain his support for health ins (which is very expensive for older women and with any previous health conditions)
If there is more than one car, she can get the one she wants and force him to sell any thing bought during the marriage (boats, resorts, other houses) and get half the money for that.
HOWEVER< if it is for unfaithfulness or cruelty, she will need to file for cause and then present all the proof and then all the assests (hers and his) and then begin the negoiations with her lawyer and his. Whatever is not settled on will then be decided by the judge.
So, if she/they are determined get yourself on line and help your Mom (unless she is the one who is going to move on for bad reasons) because a Mom of 30 years stay at home, with health conditions will become a heartbreaking situation and only be made worse if she doesnt act wisely and QUICKLY.
Take care, and write me if you want---A.
K.B. answers from Washington DC on July 25, 2009
You have a lot of great suggestions on how your father should and will provide money to support your mother. However, that still puts your mother at the mercy of the courts, lawyers, and/or your father's generosity.
Even if all that works out and your father is really into helping your mother financially, I think she should take this time to look into other work options to help herself.
If anything ever happened to your dad, she shouldn't be in danger. Plus I really believe there's something important for your self-esteem to work and have some control over your world. If she's going through a divorce, it would be good to have control over something and make some friends.
I know you said she has health issues, but paid work can take all kinds of forms. There are lots of work from home / virtual admin. jobs, medical transcription, call center jobs, after school tutoring, part-time work. I'm not sure what restrictions she has, but she may want to look into what she can do. There's time now for her to take a class online or locally to get any training she'd need to do something she'd enjoy. She could add that to her jewelry money, or use it to expand the jewelry business.
Again, I don't know all the details of your situation, so maybe this isn't possible. I'm just thinking it might help her spirit to be doing something. If she's able to make jewelry (focused work for a short time) she can stuff envelopes or other things. Keeping busy, being productive, and making friends could be very good for her. I hope that helps a little.
A.F. answers from Washington DC on July 26, 2009
If your parents are going to wait awhile before divorcing, would they be interested in counseling to save the marriage? In the long run this will save them tons of money and distress. Most divorced people I know say life is not better after divorce; it is lonely. You can contact FOCUS ON THE FAMILY organization. They can refer you to Christian marriage councilors. (google for the website)
Back to your question: Many states in a divorce divide the assets of the couple in half. So your mom will not walk away destitute. Both will be poorer instead of having a grand time in retirement together. Surely they are mature enough to work out their problems if they are willing to make the effort. I pray they will. AF
N.H. answers from Washington DC on July 25, 2009
I divorced my very abusive husband after 30 years of putting up with him hitting me, killing my baby, and killing my pets was the final straw.
What state does your mom live in? In Penna. if you've been married more than 25 years, you get half your hubby's retirement. I got absolutely NOTHING else, but I did get that which has come in very handy.
You might want to check laws for her state on long term marriage.
P. S. I would be very happy to share with your mom since we have similar circumstances. I waited for my son to finish school also.
S.C. answers from Norfolk on July 25, 2009
Tell her to contact legal aid. They can give her more info. Since she has been a sahm she will probably get alimony and might be eligible to draw of your father's social security (i'm not sure if the laws have changed). Have your parents sought counseling? I wish you luck.
C.C. answers from Washington DC on July 25, 2009
Under the Employee Retirement Income and Security Act [ERISA], your mother would be entitled to a portion of your father's retirement funds: employer-funded pension, IRAs, 401ks. The institutions that have your father's retirement money would have to be served with a "qualified domestic relations order" [QDRO]. There are different factors that go into deciding how much of your father's pension your mother should be awarded.
As far as the health insurance, your mother would no longer be an "eligible dependent" once the divorce is final. She could continue coverage through his employer for up to 36 months, but she would have to pay the full monthly premium. A call to your father's employer would tell you how much she'd have to pay. It would depend on the particular health plan, but she should expect well upwards of $400/month.
Your mother needs to have a knowledgable advocate during this process. She MUST get a lawyer.
M.W. answers from Washington DC on July 25, 2009
You did not say if your mother lives in MD or another state. That information will change what her rights are, because this issue is different from state to state. Property rights, alimony, and other financial issues are something that only an attorney can properly advise her about. Most states have some kind of legal aid for people who cannot afford an attorney. But your mother probably can use the joint income for legal expenses. She does not have to bring in a check to have the right to use the marital resources, she contributes to the marriage in other ways. She usually can use any money for her needs, and the services of an attorney are included. If she does not have access to these funds, then maybe she can start at legal aid to gain access.
She really needs to talk to an attorney.
L.Z. answers from Washington DC on July 25, 2009
If she lives in Loudon go for life time alimony. Women get a lot here. And I may be wrong but I think she may get half of his social security. Anyway if your dad makes a decent living, have your mom hire a lawyer, he'll have to pay the bill. Good luck. Anyway hire a lawyer. And sorry they are spliting. Unfortunatley couples lose eachother when raising kids. Maybe they could go on a romantic getaway to Hawaii and rekindle. Marriage is hard. Sorry.
D.D. answers from Washington DC on July 25, 2009
Are your parents in Maryland? I am a divorce attorney/mediator in Maryland. Maybe they should try mediation to deal with the financial issues... If they get an agreement in place, that lays out the rights and responsibilities, your mom will feel more secure.
But yes, usually a person who was staying home for the good of the family in a long term marriage will get some sort of alimony. There are a lot of factors, age, etc, but she should get something.
Send me a message if you have more questions.
M.W. answers from Dover on July 25, 2009
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M.C. answers from Washington DC on July 24, 2009
I agree that she should consult a lawyer. As for Insurance, she would lose it. She should start looking for another plan now. Its okay to have 2 plans at the same time, that way she is ready. She will be able to ask for allomony. If they currently share banking, she should setup her own account. Then she has something established when the time comes. She should also take this time to take some refresher courses. She may not be able to hold a regular job, but she could do things like medical billing, virtual secretary, etc. Now is the time to prepare for that.