During a divorce, women often have unique concerns and issues that differ from their male counterparts. If you are a stay at home mother or dependent spouse, you may have concerns about managing finances and retirement, tax consequences from receiving support, and coping with the after effects of economic abuse. Domestic violence, whether physical or emotional, often discourages women from getting divorced out of fear of the consequences. These concerns often force women to stay in bad marriages long after they’ve determined it is in their best interests to leave.
For all women including supporting spouses, you may have questions about alimony, helping your children cope with transitioning through divorce, tax consequences, and whether you can relocate with your children for a fresh start. Regardless of your situation, your experiences differ from men and your plan for navigating through a divorce should be tailored to that reality.
Our tips take into account frequently asked questions from previous female clients. We hope our answers can help you push through a difficult time.
1) Consider Therapy for You and Your Children
Engaging in therapy early in the divorce process can be invaluable to a separating couple and their children. Divorce has a significant impact on your day-to-day routine and that impact is exacerbated if you have minor children. Stress, anxiety, and depression are issues often present in unhappy marriages and they can get worse when there is significant change in your life. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of women who have become so engulfed and occupied with maintaining the household that they’ve seen friendships fade and support networks dwindle. Being out of the workforce for a significant period of time can trigger significant stressors upon attempting to find employment after a divorce.
With regards to children, it is not abnormal for a child to have behavioral issues after a divorce or separation. Anger, anxiety, depression are but a few of the emotions experienced by a child who suddenly goes days or weeks without seeing a parent. In cases involving older children, they may express a desire to be with one parent over the other and display behavioral issues to accomplish this objective.
By anticipating these issues and seeking therapy early in the process many of these concerns can be alleviated through education, learning coping mechanisms, and parenting techniques on dealing with issues that may arise as a result of divorce.
2) Financial Concerns
Whether you’re a woman in a supporting or dependent role, divorce causes significant financial events that you need to understand in order to make informed decisions. Alimony and child support, how they are calculated, and how they are treated tax wise are essential to creating a budget and determining how you will make ends meet on your own. Retirement planning can also be a concern as you may receive significant retirement assets or lose a portion of your assets. In some cases, women who are victims of economic abuse may not have a clue about the state of finances in their marriage and may have no idea what it will take to survive on their own.
In North Carolina, child support is calculated pursuant to the child support guidelines. (for more details, review our Child Support Guide) There is no clear formula for alimony, however it is loosely based on your financial need each month compared to your spouse’s ability to pay. When trying to resolve your matter outside of court, an accurate budget is required to determine how to move forward financially.
While there are no tax consequences to transferring retirement between spouses, you will likely become familiar with rollover accounts and qualified domestic relations orders, which provide for the transfer of retirement assets between spouses. In most cases, the retirement assets you receive will be subject to early withdrawal penalties if you don’t meet certain conditions.
Sitting down with a financial planner can help you prepare your post-martial budget which can go a long way in determining what amount you should seek in total support. You will also learn about the penalties associated with early withdrawal of retirement assets so you can make informed decisions about how to invest your assets. In the alternative there are tons of online tools to help you create and stick with a budget, with Mint being one of our personal favorites. (it’s free)
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3) Spousal Abuse
Abuse comes in many forms, whether it be economic, emotional or physical. Abuse can destroy self-confidence, cause anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and create an injurious environment that can require years to recover from. While women are not the exclusive victims of abuse, the statistics are staggering and clearly indicate women deal with these issues far more often than men.
Specifically some of the most concerning statistics*:
- Women ages 18-34 experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence. (4 in 5 victims of intimate partner violence were female)
- 81% of women who experienced rape, stalking or physical violence experienced short or long-term impacts such as post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and physical injury.
- A child witnessed violence in 22% of cases filed in state courts.
Economic abuse is a topic often ignored but equally concerning. Economic abuse is when an abuser takes control or limits access to shared or individual assets or limits the current and future earning potential of a victim as a power and control strategy. (What is Economic Abuse – North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence) It can take many forms, including:
- Employment related abuse (preventing from attending work, demanding that a victim quits a job, harassing the victim at work)
- Coerced debt (taking out loans/credit cards in the victim’s name without their consent, forced signing of financial documents)
- Preventing Access to Existing Funds
Victims of economic abuse may be unable to leave or forced to return to an abusive partner due to economic reasons. They often face severe challenges to obtaining self-sufficiency, such as struggling to find a job, obtaining a place to live, or getting transportation due to poor credit scores.
Trust is destroyed in marriages where abuse is present. You’ve taken vows to spend the rest of your life with a person and do what is the best interests of each other and your children. When these vows are broken it is difficult to trust the person you though you knew better than anyone. In severe cases, you may not trust or feel comfortable around any men as a result of your experiences. Often we get requests from potential clients who prefer to meet with a female attorney and we happily oblige these requests. More than anything, victims of abuse seek and deserve comfort when going through a divorce.
4) Go About Relocations the Right Way
If you’re divorcing and are looking for a fresh start or are simply pursuing an employment opportunity that would require you to relocate, if possible, seek consent or file a custody action. If a custody order does not exist, you may very well be able to move without filing leaving your spouse with no immediate remedy. Emergency motions and motions for injunctive relief are generally not favored to prevent a relocation. Beware however; if your spouse files for custody and you’ve moved a judge can order the child be moved back to the child’s home state. This can result in the relocating spouse having to scramble and find ways to move back to the home state if they want to remain involved with a joint custody schedule.
Seeking permission before a move is almost always the best way to handle a relocation. Under no circumstances should you consider moving to evade the jurisdiction of the home state or as a means to limit the other parent’s access to your children. If this can be proven or if it’s suspected by your family court judge, this plan can back fire with severe consequences to your custodial relationship with your child.
If you’re going through a divorce, you want an attorney in your corner who can relate to the unique issues faced by women. We can help you get through this and move forward.
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