The Stay At Home Parent

Stay At Home Parent

Divorce Exposed – Episode 2 – The Stay At Home Parent

Most of us get married thinking it will last forever…..and then reality sets in…we change, we grow and so often, we stop doing it together. Some couples manage to work through the tough times and some couples throw in the towel – or at least one person does – and at some point, the big D word enters the picture.  At divorce exposed, we want to provide insights for staying married and inspiration for surviving divorce. In this episode, we will focus on the stay at home parent.

My name is Debbie DeChambeau and I am your host….In this episode, the topic is important if you are happily married and don’t even have divorce on your radar but you are thinking about staying home and taking care of your children, or staying home because you can.  If you are thinking about getting married or remarried, this episode will be good for you to listen to as well.

I know if you are just getting married, thinking about divorce seems completely far-fetched.  As much as I want to believe your marriage will last forever, statistically, that’s probably not going to happen. So preparing yourself for the ‘what if’  is a smart thing for you to do.  And if you have been married and are thinking about getting remarried, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.

Before we get started, I wanted to let you know that I’ve started a FB group to keep the conversation going.  I mentioned it in episode 2 and we are getting more members every day. CLICK HERE if you want to join the group

I also want to emphasize that I am not a lawyer, financial advisor or therapist.  These are professionals you might need to help you through your divorce and I encourage you to reach out and ask for referrals if you feel you need help.  I’m just here to share ideas for you to consider.

After all, I’ve been married and divorced twice and each of my parents were married at least 3 times. Not everything I discuss will work for you but if something inspires you, then I feel like this podcast was a success.

Today we are talking about protecting yourself as a stay at home parent.

Personally, this is a topic that I think is very important for married couples to discuss, especially if things are going well in their marriage.

This isn’t a discussion about working parent vs. stay at home parent.

Today I want to discuss concepts that stay at home parents need to address to protect themselves should their marriage come to an end.  The goal is to focus on the financial interests of the stay at home parent.

So many most couples are two income families today, at least until the children arrive.  That’s when the decision gets made to have one parent stay home…..for raising the children.  Sure, there are many other situations where one spouse will stay at home, but for todays discussion purposes, we are focused on the parent staying home to care for the children.

Historically, this has been the mom, but today, there are many dads staying home so we’ll try to keep the conversation gender neutral.  If you are in this situation or if you are planning to be in this situation, this podcast will provide you with some ideas to consider, mostly to protect yourself.

Remember, I’m not an attorney or a financial advisor or a therapist,  so if you like what I’m talking about, you might want to consult with one to work out the details, and your state might have specific laws that address this situation as well.  But as you’ll hear later in this podcast, there are reasons to address this when life is good so you don’t have to deal with it if your relationship goes sour.

I want to start out by saying that I might come off as being biased here….but stick with me, I come around!

As a younger person, I could not imagine being a stay at home mom.  I didn’t go to college to stay at home, I went so that I could have a career.  Why would I put myself in the position of being dependent on my husbands income?  It was a foreign concept to me.

No question, I had a lot of stereotypes, but they weren’t unfounded.

During my teenage years, I watched my mom raise two children, while she worked full time.  I also lived in a neighborhood where all of my friends, with the exception of one, was being raised by single parents, mostly moms.  So from my vantage point, moms worked.  It’s what you did for survival.

In college, my minor was Womens Studies –  My beliefs on women and their independence were very strong as a result of this program.  I definitely had to manage my viewpoints in public because I was in the minority, but from some of the concepts I learned throughout history, I just couldn’t imagine being financially dependent on someone else.

That was the philosophy I took into my first marriage.  Everything was equal.  That worked really well until the kids were born, then it became a little more difficult to manage the equality.  While I worked a full time job just like my husband, the balance of equally parenting became more difficult over time.  I was salary and he was only paid if he worked so it made more sense for me to stay home when they were sick but it also impacted my career since I had to take more time off.

Traditionally, It isn’t uncommon for moms to take a step back in their careers for parenting, although that is changing a little today but from a divorce perspective, should that be factored into the settlement equation?  Something to ponder.

In my first marriage, while I feel like I did the majority of the parenting even though I also worked a full time job, (as most moms do), it was as 50/50 as a relationship could get.  I am not saying it was necessarily a good thing, but for the time, it worked for me.

Fast forward a few years and as you’ll learn in future episodes, I’ve been married and divorced twice. This is partly why I’m so passionate about this topic, but I digress.

When my second husband entered the picture, he was all about me staying at home and raising the children.  While money was still an issue to me, the family values were strong, and I conceded to let him provide financially for the family while I took care of the children. I gave in to all of my stereotype Illusions and for about 10 years I took care of my children while someone else provided all of the finances.

It was a good life and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to be there for my children during their teenage years.  It also changed my perspective that there is real value in being a stay at home parent, particularly during the teenage years.

So what is the problem?  When I didn’t really generate an income for so many years, and one day my husband decided he was done in the marriage, I didn’t have any money. For the most part, my job skills were out of date. My self esteem was really low. I didn’t have much of a retirement account and I didn’t have any personal savings.

The small inheritance I received went into our joint account. All of the money was our money – which is great when you are living the happily ever after dream, but once he decided he wanted to move on, once he closed the checking account and cancelled the joint credit cards, I was screwed.

And I know I’m not the only one that has been in this situation which is why I’m recording this episode.

As the stay at home mom, I did not think I needed to be paid for all of the work I did.  After all, it was our family, it was our home. During this time, I landscaped the yard (took an entire summer) did most of the yard work every year, painted every room in the house, worked as the general contractor for the basement remodel and I did all of the painting in the basement remodel (another summer).

If I had made sure I was paid for this work, I might have had a little bit of money put away. Who thinks of paying themselves when they are working for the family? At the time it didn’t matter to me because I thought we’d be together forever. But as soon as he closed the account, I wished I had found a way to get paid for all the hours, weeks and months I had contributed to the work I did around the house.

How many stay at home parent  think about getting paid for the work they are doing around the house?  Most of us feel it is part of our obligation – it is what you do for your family and for your home. But when hubby (or wifey), the primary breadwinner,  decides to cut off the funds, you begin to wonder how to find money to survive.

Yes, in many states there are laws to help you get some funding, but usually you need to find an attorney to help you follow the law and that in itself can cost money.

I am not suggesting that stay at home mom’s don’t stay at home. I now believe it is a worthwhile thing to do – but there needs to be some sort of financial compensation; just in case the checking account gets closed unsuspectingly one day.

If you are the stay at home parent, protect yourself.  As much as we all want to believe that we will live happily ever after, statistics prove differently today. At a minimum, start a mattress fund…..with the hopes that you never need it.  But if you do, you’ll have some emergency resources one day. If you don’t ever need the money, plan an amazing retirement vacation with the love of your life!

Now I need to say here that legally, if you get divorced, you need to report all of your assets…..so if that’s the case, get creative. Or consider this…..

If you are going to stay at home, have an arrangement to get some compensation for what you do. And if you don’t’ have the funds to get compensation, have a written agreement that you will get a realistic percentage of your spouses income until you are making what you would have been making before you stopped working.

Don’t Settle.

Don’t negotiate what you were making when you stopped working but what you would be making had you not stopped. Have a measurement in place ahead of time that you both agree to. Be greedy….because if you end up getting divorced and it isn’t your idea, you can bet your spouse will be. And have the agreement drafted by an attorney as a contract that is legally binding in a court of law.

I know this might sound crazy but so many people, mostly women, have to go to court and fight for alimony.  Oftentimes, this can cost tens of thousands of dollars to fight in court, which when you look at the net gain, which is what you make after legal fees, often times, it isn’t even worth pursuing. Many times people go through the process because of the principle issue but they loose in the long run because they don’t get what they think they deserve.

Often times the spouse has a way to hold income or not take an income for awhile so that they don’t have to pay alimony. It isn’t legal but it happens more than it should. Unless you hire a forensic accountant, and even then, you don’t know for sure how much is being hidden from you in the court documents. When you negotiate this up front, if your relationship ends, it doesn’t become a legal battle.

I would also make sure as part of this agreement that you have access to your spouses income on a regular basis.  What does the W2 say? what’s on your tax returns? What are the other investments that are generating income? You are entitled to this as well and shouldn’t have to spend money getting it!

For the most part, I don’t think this is an issue that you can get a court ruling on before divorce but if you and your spouse agree to put something in place that is properly executed as a contract, then you have something to protect yourself with if you ever need to. And if you don’t ever need it, all the better. 

If you are going to be a stay at home parent, your contribution is valuable and there should be some type of compensation arrangement. I think you should arrange this ahead of time so that it isn’t something you have to pay a lawyer to figure out for you in court. This can be really tricky when you are on a limited budget, but if you think about your future, it can be a worthwhile decision. You are worth it.

My recommendation is that together you go to a lawyer and have the document created. The each of you take the document to a separate attorney to get an opinion and then come back to the first lawyer for final negotiations. The first attorney will represent both of you together, not each of you individually, unless you are going to a mediator.  Even if you see a mediator, I would suggest taking the document to another attorney for ideas that will specifically protect you.

If you are the working spouse, protect the stay at home parent in your relationship. Make these arrangements while everything is good. It’s emotionally difficult and financially draining to work out the financial arrangements of a marriage when a divorce is in progress. Protect yourself ahead of time to make your life easier.

I also believe that when you can have these types of conversations up front, you will have a better understanding of the person you are marrying.

My second husband wanted me to sign a pre-nup before we got married.  He gave it to me less than two weeks before we were schedule to get married.  He also paid for me to have it reviewed by another attorney – and that attorney said that I should not sign it.

But what do you do a week before you are suppose to get married and you are already living with the person?  It was such a difficult decision for me.  I loved him and thought it was a wonderful relationship, so I signed it….But I signed it with TEARS.

I CRIED ALL NIGHT.

The only good thing is that as soon as I gave it to him, the day before our wedding, he tore it up. That really benefited me when we got divorced but I know it made him cringe. He did things throughout our marriage that made me believe we would be together forever. Little did I know he would want out one day….

In the end, it was not an equitable settlement, but I live with it.

Remember, I am not a lawyer, financial advisor or therapist.  These are professionals you might need to help you through your divorce and I encourage you to reach out and ask for referrals if you feel you need help. I’m someone who has been through this….more than once.  If you have questions, if you are questioning yourself, get help. Check out our resource page where we’ll provide you with ideas on where to find help. The resource page is a work in progress, so bookmark it and check back regularly.

Thank you for listening to this episode of Divorce Exposed – If you like what you’ve heard on today’s podcast and want to hear more, please go to our website @divorceexposed.com and subscribe to our podcast.  We’d love your feedback and a review on itunes would really help. If you know someone that is thinking about quitting their job to stay home and take care of the children, share this episode with them.

Also, if you like what you heard, don’t forget to hop over to FB and join the conversation in our Divorce Exposed group.  I’ll link to it in the show notes to make it easier to find.

Until next time……..keep finding the positives in everything you do.

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