Pre-Divorce Finances, Part 3: Supporting yourself during divorce if you’re not the primary breadwinner

Posted on Jan 10, 2013 by Katie Carter

If you’re not the primary breadwinner in the family, divorce is even more intimidating. Without a significant and steady source of income, moving out or supporting the house on your own seems impossible. Usually, there’s not a whole lot that happens between the initial separation until the entry of the final divorce decree—so you’ll have to make it work somehow.

For many women, the toughest time is right away. In a divorce filed with the court on fault grounds, it’s tough until the pendente lite hearing (the temporary support hearing) is held, and they are awarded temporary child and spousal support. In a no fault divorce, where you have to wait a year before you can even file with the court, it can be financially difficult from separation until the entry of the final divorce decree. There’s no temporary support hearing in these cases because there’s no time—by the time you’re able to file, you can go ahead and go all the way through with the divorce. Why have a support hearing? In the most desperate cases, we sometimes file for child and spousal support in the juvenile court, but, of course, getting into the juvenile court can take months, too. What do you do if you need extra money now?

If you have access to the joint account, take some money and set it aside in your own separate account. Don’t take more than half of what’s available, and make sure you document what you’ve taken and where you’ve put it. Though your husband will notice and probably be angry, you also have to be okay in the meantime. Remember that you’ll have to account for having taken this money—but not until you actually get into court (at which point you can ask for the child and spousal support you’ll need), or until you sign your separation agreement (at which point you would have negotiated the child and spousal support you’ll need). It can help get you through a time that would otherwise be impossibly difficult.

I’m not suggesting that you be sneaky. Giving advance warning of your plans would cause your husband to move ALL the funds without leaving you any, so it’s probably not possible to discuss your plans beforehand. After you’ve moved the money, try to talk openly and rationally with him about why you made the choice that you did. Emphasize that you understand that this will be taken into account when the property is later divided and that you have no intention of doing anything to affect his entitlement to his marital share of the money. Remind him that marital means that it’s part yours, too, and that you’ll need to take care of yourself and the children in the interim.