Financial strategies for non-working spouses during divorce

Apr 12, 2021 | Divorce

Divorce is never easy, but it is especially frightening if you depend on your spouse financially. As a non-working spouse, you don’t have any income of your own. You don’t have a recent job history either, which means that getting a good job could be difficult.

If you intend to file for divorce but worry that you won’t be able to be independent when you do so, planning ahead can help you maximize the financial support available to you as you take steps to improve your life. 

You can ask the court for spousal maintenance

If you separate from your spouse as soon as you file for divorce, you will immediately have expenses related to that decision. Just as you can request child support as soon as the parents separate, so too can you request alimony or spousal maintenance when you separate your living situation and finances from your spouse.

The courts look at many factors when deciding if you can receive maintenance and how much you should receive. The temporary order can eventually turn into a longer-term order, especially if you need time to re-establish your career or if you are already at the age of retirement.

Gather financial records before you make any major moves

Washington is a community property state for property division. The courts will likely split up everything that you earned and acquired during the marriage. Everything from equity in your home to retirement savings can be on the table during a divorce.

If your spouse is the only one working, they may also play a bigger role in the financial maintenance of the house. You will want income records, tax records and other financial documents from during your marriage that show what came in and what went out of the household budget.

Additionally, you will likely want to take some time to create a thorough inventory of your physical property, ranging from your vehicles to your furniture. Establishing the value for those assets will make it easier for you to ask for your fair share in the divorce.

Don’t turn away from getting legal help

One of the most nerve-racking parts about leaving someone you depend on financially is the knowledge that you don’t have resources of your own. Your ex can easily afford an attorney. Can you? If you can’t, that puts you at an extreme disadvantage during the divorce proceedings.

The courts may agree that your spouse should pay your attorney costs because you are unable to do so on your own behalf. In other situations, such as where one spouse intentionally makes the divorce as difficult and contentious as possible, the court might order them to pay the attorney fees as part of a sanction. Spouses who abuse the court process to try to force their spouse to compromise or diminish their financial stability can face penalties for doing so.

You probably have many options available to you through friends and family that could help you regain your independence. Asking for help and support will make it easier for you to divorce when you don’t yet have many resources of your own.

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