Homeschooling SAHM needs separation/divorce advice - Mothering Forums
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Single Parenting > Homeschooling SAHM needs separation/divorce advice
mama amie's Avatar mama amie 01:57 PM 07-27-2013

I'm in the planning stages of officially separating from my husband.  Since our situation seems slightly unorthodox, I am having trouble finding the right kind of advice for how we should proceed.  I'll try to keep this a concise list for simplicity.


1.  Currently (and historically) he works and I SAH/homeschool our two kids, 5 and 2.  He makes about 60k, and I currently make no income.  We are in a lease through May, and hope to stay together until then to avoid breaking lease and pay off some debt.


2.  I am interviewing for a job that will hopefully schedule me for Fri-Sun shifts so we can avoid childcare.  H will adjust his schedule to M-Th.  My job will likely get me about $800/month- just enough to pay rent on an apartment.  We're talking about getting separate apartments in the same multi-building complex located on the bus line and within walking distance to the job I'm expecting to get.  He busses to his job already, and the car is used for errands and taking kids for recreation.  We also have bikes with attachments for kids (trailer and tag-along) we've used for family bike rides.


3.  We want to attempt 50/50 custody:  I'll have kids Mon-Thu and he'll keep them while I work Fri-Sun.  Overnights for kids with H are yet to be determined, as DD still nurses and both children may have trouble spending nights without me for awhile.


4.  We need to figure out how much he should pay to me, since my income will only cover my rent.  Should we arrange some sort of salary for the childcare/schooling I provide?  


5.  I am uninsured and facing a hip surgery (should be minor, but obviously an expense).


6.  We have debt- currently around 5k on cards and 20k for a new car we bought (replaced two old ones).  I hope we can eliminate the card debt and be left with only the car to deal with by the time we separate in May.


7.  How should we handle the car?  It's brand new, but was recently vandalized.  We're looking at around $500 for repairs (insurance deductible), I think, to get it back to new again.  Should we sell it outright or create some contract for sharing it indefinitely?  I was thinking we could allocate the car use to whichever parent is with kids, returning it to other parent with full gas tank.  What about repairs?  How would that be handled?


8.  As long as I am SAH/Homeschooling, I don't see how I can bring my income higher than the aforementioned $800/month.  So, I don't see any possibilities for me buying a car or establishing savings.  If we're officially divorced, I can probably get medicaid and probably food stamps.  We're in a metro area and will be able to use the bus for solo trips and some recreational ventures. 


9.  Since we have no savings and are basically living on credit and paycheck, how can we afford legal and financial advice?  Do you know of alternatives or ideas how we can agree without spending much $?  


10.  Lastly, I have no family in our area.  I moved to H's hometown for his ability to be more financially stable here upon becoming pregnant.  Should I include an annual stipend for traveling to see my family with kids, or is that a bit much?


11.  Taxes- how do we do that?  Who claims what and how?


12.  Moving house- As I mentioned, we're planning on separate apartments, which should add up to about what we pay in rent in our current house.  I suspect I should have the financial agreement in place in order to have my own lease.  There's really no other way I see I could get my own lease when I'll barely make the rent in monthly income.  Thoughts on that?



Am I forgetting anything major here?


Just to add a bit of detail, he's a pretty great dad and just not so great husband.  I trust he'll be fair and respectful with the kids during his time with them, and I have no desire to be unfair with him in any way.  I only want to ensure that I am always provided for as long as I am the childcare provider.  If kids go to school some years down the road, I would obviously be able to earn more income, but we are both pretty set on homeschooling if at all possible.  DD is only 2, so she's not able to attend school for free yet anyway.  I don't suspect he will be playing dirty, but he does get that type of streak in our arguments at times, which has me only slightly on edge.  I know he has the best interest of our children as his top priority, and screwing me over would ultimately do that to the kids.  He has no desire to sabotage his parental rights or relationship with the kids.

rubelin's Avatar rubelin 08:29 PM 07-27-2013

first thing you need to do is find a child support calculator for your state. They usually have something similar to what's actually used by the courts so you can input all the necessary stuff. CS is usually based on a percentage of income, sometimes (like in my state) also taking into consideration the amount of visitation by the non-custodial parent. The idea is to equalize the households for the kids.


You can also find lawyers who do free (or very low cost) consultations, who will be able to answer your legal questions depending on what's the average for your state/county.


If you aren't physically separating for another 9 mo, you should be able to have an agreement filed in time to get a lease.

captain optimism's Avatar captain optimism 08:40 AM 07-28-2013

One problem with child support if you are staying at home: in my state, a judge can decide to attribute the income to you that you would have if you had a full-time job, on the grounds that he (or she, but you can bet he) thinks you should have a full-time job. This is why it is important to consult with a lawyer who will be your lawyer, advocating for you, and not only to go through mediation. 


Do run your current situation through a child support calculator.


You will be surprised at the mental gymnastics a divorcing man can do to justify trying to pay less in child support. 

mama amie's Avatar mama amie 11:35 AM 07-28-2013
Another question I have is how to gauge my son's level of confidence in and/ or fear of his father. He has spanked with a belt once and has gotten lost in verbal power struggles a number of times. I am trying to figure out how to know how my son really feels without leading questions, coersion, or showing any negative opinions myself. Any ideas? They spend loads of time together apart from me and DD, so I only know what I am around- mostly positive with occasional power struggles and the belt incident.
farmermomma's Avatar farmermomma 12:37 PM 07-28-2013
If you're working job fri-sun. And working sahm/homeschool mon-thurs. You're working everyday. Don't use the government calculator. Get him to pay for half of your children's schooling. Not half the pencils but for your time. Homeschool isn't free school. Pay off debt and save for retirement.
mama amie's Avatar mama amie 12:54 PM 07-28-2013
Yes, thank you. That is the approach I plan to take. It seems fair to assume I should be paid fairly for my job as homeschoolers, and assume it should be equal to reasonably priced childcare for two kids during regular school hours, if not his work hours. I just need to do some math there- say $15/hour 8-4 Monday thru Thursday on top of child support average(for clothing/food/supplies). Does that sound reasonable?
Springshowers's Avatar Springshowers 04:35 PM 07-28-2013
I would guess charging for home schooling time would only work if your ex was supportive. Has anyone ever seen home schooling wage given to a parent in court? Given there is free school in most countries I have trouble seeing that happening. Nice if it would.
mama amie's Avatar mama amie 05:05 PM 07-28-2013
Oh, he's totally on board with HSing and making sure I am financially stable. That's what he says, and I believe it. Of course, I'll have legally binding documents in place for whatever we agree upon.
Springshowers's Avatar Springshowers 05:33 PM 07-28-2013
Oh that is fantastic!!!!
greenemami's Avatar greenemami 05:34 PM 07-28-2013
Originally Posted by FarmerMomma View Post

If you're working job fri-sun. And working sahm/homeschool mon-thurs. You're working everyday. Don't use the government calculator. Get him to pay for half of your children's schooling. Not half the pencils but for your time. Homeschool isn't free school. Pay off debt and save for retirement.

I can't see this flying in court at all...maybe if your ex voluntarily agrees to it. 


Essentially, that's like saying he too should be paid for his parenting time and then it all balances out if they've agreed to 50/50, right?


I'm a homeschooler too and while I would LOVE to have ex pay for my time, I seriously doubt that will ever happen.


I do think, however, that he should have to pay for 50% of educational expenses (i.e. curriculum, school supplies, etc). 

farmermomma's Avatar farmermomma 06:24 AM 07-29-2013
If all the responsibility of the homeschooling falls on one parent s/he should be compensated. I'm not sure you could get equivalent childcare costs. Maybe for littles but not school aged. I might compare with private school. Or look at both figures and average it. Since you're 50/50 with your time there would be very little child support through court calculator. But if the responsibility of clothes, outside activities:sports and camps and such falls on you decide that and budget it for it with him.

Even in court battles if kids are in private school the courts don't want to change that so why not homeschool?

My child's father and I made up an agreement through one lawyer and sent it court for their stamp. We weren't married so there was nothing to divide. We never had to hash it out in court. It sounds like you guys are working it out without hashing it out in the courts. Good don't waste their time. Do get their stamp after you agree. Keep the kids the focus. And that means sustainability of primary care giver which seems to be you even at half time.

I hope you have a lot of fun homeschooling cause dad gets the free time with the kids and you're working 7 days a week. But rock on from one single homeschooling mom to another.
captain optimism's Avatar captain optimism 08:26 AM 07-29-2013

All right now, I'm not in Texas and my situation was not the same. I did my divorce through mediation. That meant that my ex and I agreed on all particulars, drafted a separation agreement (as it's called in my state) and went together to file it with the court. We had a hearing with a judge that took about five minutes and involved saying out loud that our marriage was irreparable. All the work and time and money were in developing the agreement. 


It is worthwhile to run your income and your STBX's income, plus whatever other data you have, through a child support calculator. (I do not understand why anyone would tell you not to do this! It's just plugging numbers into a formula for information.) It gives you a good minimum number for negotiation if you and your STBX are going to draft an agreement together to present to the court. Minimum, not maximum.  I do not know why you wouldn't want to know this. The standard amount of child support if you're the custodial parent may be HIGHER than what you'd agree to accept if you didn't know what the state thinks you ought to have. 


If you are also going to ask for compensation for homeschooling, I agree that you should do this by figuring out the expenses that you incur by homeschooling. This should include both supplies and labor, and should be separate from what you're asking as child support. 


Even if you do not pay a mediator to help you write the agreement and do it all on your own, you're going to be negotiating. You are going to try to get more financial support and he's going to try to pay less. He will try to get you to help pay off the debts and may use the debt as a way to get you to accept less in support. You have to have a minimum for the support you'll accept and a picture of what you want. 


One reason to talk with a lawyer is to find out whether, because Texas law specifies (like law in my state) that the approach to child support must be gender neutral, a judge might impute more income to you than you make. The whole reason for the attributed or imputed income thing was to stop higher earning dads from trying to get out of child support by refusing to work the number of hours or the jobs they had before divorce. 


Another reason to talk with a lawyer is to find out whether there is a standard amount of money that couples have settled on for supporting homeschooling. 

mama amie's Avatar mama amie 09:09 AM 07-29-2013
Thanks again captain! I plan to get at least one free consult with a family law attorney (likely more) to see how much free advice I can solicit. The calculators are skewed a bit since they ask about insurance, and our kids are uninsured. But I will try it. smile.gif
captain optimism's Avatar captain optimism 09:19 AM 07-29-2013
Originally Posted by Mama Amie View Post

Thanks again captain! I plan to get at least one free consult with a family law attorney (likely more) to see how much free advice I can solicit. The calculators are skewed a bit since they ask about insurance, and our kids are uninsured. But I will try it. smile.gif

Oh, your kids are uninsured! That's scary. I get why that happens--people have too much income for CHIPS but not enough for private health insurance--but it still feels scary. This might be a problem you can solve with the divorce. 


They only ask about insurance so that they can take into account if one or both of you is paying toward it. If your ex-spouse pays for the children's insurance, that counts toward his total money spent on child support. If you do and you're making less than he is (or taking care of the children more, or both) he has to pay you more to help cover the insurance.


They do that so that parents will be motivated to cover their children with health insurance after divorce. I think it's true of every state's child support calculation. If you aren't paying for insurance, it doesn't affect anything in the calculation. I hope I explained that OK. 


You can tell that I managed my anxiety about my own divorce by reading a lot about divorce law and trying to understand everything, even though I'm not a lawyer. Hope this is helpful!

A&A's Avatar A&A 09:21 AM 07-29-2013

If you want a balance between mediation and the normal route, you can get what is called a collaborative divorce.  Look up "collaborative divorce lawyers Texas."  

mama amie's Avatar mama amie 09:56 AM 07-29-2013
I love this collaborative law option! I forwarded to H to see if he would be open to trying a consultation. Thanks!
rubelin's Avatar rubelin 11:35 AM 07-29-2013

fwiw, if you are truly amicable, it is possible to do a divorce with no lawyers. To start off, we used, which goes through questionnaires to draw up the paperwork for your state. We got the numbers from using a CS calculator (I originally had access to a free version of the same software that the state uses, and then later the state updated their website to include it in their basic online CS calculators) I did impute a minimal income for myself, though I wasn't making anything at the time. This let my XH off the hook a little bit but we live in a SUPER high cost of living area and he wouldn't have been able to afford an adequate home for the kids otherwise.


We had a verbal agreement (well. email-based agreement) for several years before filing officially. I have a family friend who's a lawyer and he had his office do the filing as a gift (to be sure everything was done properly) and our family court had a program using law students that do clinics helping people with a DIY divorce. We never went before a judge, they just signed off the paperwork for a small filing fee.


We didn't start out homeschooling, but have done it for the last 4 years. I get paid nothing more for it and I can't imagine my XH agreeing to pay more or the state ordering it.

mama amie's Avatar mama amie 12:18 PM 07-29-2013
Yuck. The calculator just estimated a whopping $475/month for both kids. That is nothing. Feeling so grateful he wants to continue HSing, and hope he really does follow through with paying more than this. That is LOUSY! I don't know how people manage, but I hope we can,
rubelin's Avatar rubelin 01:30 PM 07-29-2013

how long have you been married?? Be sure to calculate spousal support - You should at least get it for a few years, and it can often be awarded for life if you've been married over 10 years. My spousal support is about a third of everything I get.


Also play around with seeing how different percentages of visitation w/ him affect the numbers.


Unfortunately, splitting up a single-income household into 2 households can be super tight. We were barely making ends meet with one household, it was crazy dividing it up. My parents loaned me rent money for nearly a year.

captain optimism's Avatar captain optimism 01:50 PM 07-29-2013
Originally Posted by Mama Amie View Post

Yuck. The calculator just estimated a whopping $475/month for both kids. That is nothing. Feeling so grateful he wants to continue HSing, and hope he really does follow through with paying more than this. That is LOUSY! I don't know how people manage, but I hope we can,

How is that possible? You said he earns $60K/year and you anticipate bringing in $800/month when and if you land a job? It's his gross earnings, not net. I get $1200/month if he has 50% time. Did I misunderstand you? 


Be careful that any collaborative law option you select does not require you to sign something saying you give up the right to go to court. 

mama amie's Avatar mama amie 02:05 PM 07-29-2013
Ah... I tried a different calc and it estimated $1200/mo. That makes more sense. This is if I am responsible for insurance. We've had CHIP before, so I expect to try that first. This is much more reassuring.
alpenglow's Avatar alpenglow 02:27 PM 07-29-2013
It's important to enter negotiations asking for more than what you would be willing to accept. Then you have room to negotiate and let him feel like he is winning.I would doubt your stbx would be thinking about fair as much as he may lead you to believe (based on another thread).

Don't sell yourself short or think that be you being fair, he will too. Research spousal support - you have been staying home with kids and have not been able to contribute to your own pension. Does h have a pension? You want to ensure you account for that(eg if your half is close to your half of the debt amount, you may want to use that to negotiate yourself out of debt).

Also consider that you could have been earning more than you are had HE been staying home while you advanced your career.

Put yourself first now. It's your responsibility to your kids to ensure a fair agreement to you, so they can have a similar standard of living at either home.

I would also consider the longer term picture. Eg if the kids attend public school in the future would you REALLY want to give stbx custody EVERY weekend?

Anyway I think you're doing great. I'm just playing devil's advocate because I appreciated it when people did that for me!
mama amie's Avatar mama amie 03:07 PM 07-29-2013
Excellent points, dot1. I will include those in my number crunching. smile.gif
alpenglow's Avatar alpenglow 04:31 PM 07-29-2013
I also posted in other forum about going for sole custody with a right of first refusal clause (for both of you). He needs to be able to communicate well and have respectful discussions to make shared custody work for the kids; otherwise it seems the research supports a primary residence for at least the first 3 years of a child's life, longer depending on the kids. He might go for an agreement that is reviewable after a certain amount if time. This would also give YOU time to really know what kind of co-parent he is after separating. Once 50/50 is in place it is almost impossible to go back.
A&A's Avatar A&A 05:44 PM 07-29-2013
Originally Posted by captain optimism View Post



Be careful that any collaborative law option you select does not require you to sign something saying you give up the right to go to court. 


It's my understanding that that's how collaboration differs from mediation.  With collaboration, you're still well-represented, and if things go wrong, you can still get a different lawyer and go to court.  

alpenglow's Avatar alpenglow 08:35 PM 07-29-2013
Some lawyers who practise collaborative law don't go to you want to be sure to ask about their court experience and what percentage of cases go to trial....and compare that to averages in your region and elsewhere. Ideally you want someone who prefers to mediate/negotiate, but who has what it takes to win in court too. Hopefully you can get free or cheap consultations in your area - the more opinions you have, the easier it becomes to make sense of it!
subtlycrunchy's Avatar subtlycrunchy 04:36 PM 09-15-2013

Here's what I've learned, if you both agree with homeschooling your children, this will be taken into account when determining spousal support. I am not sure what state you are in, but here in NJ there are calculation guidelines and formulas for both alimony and child support -- see: It's great if you can come to your own agreement on a sum, but don't omit running it through the calculation guidelines, if your state has them, to make sure you are getting a fair deal. You can also have the homeschool commitment written into your child custody agreement. Good luck!

SaraJaneM's Avatar SaraJaneM 12:55 PM 09-16-2013

yes yes, my thoughts exactly on weekends!! weekends will be sacred at a certain point, even if you manage to stay in a nontraditional set up-- not everyone else does and sometimes your and your kids' friends/family will only have time to get together on the weekends.

SaraJaneM's Avatar SaraJaneM 01:14 PM 09-16-2013



mama amie's Avatar mama amie 01:27 PM 09-16-2013
Thanks for your input. We've actually been working toward reconciliation and will likely start therapy in the near future. A lot has happened, as I've started working 30 hours/ week (evenings and weekends) while managing to keep our schedules carefully arranged so the kids aren't in school or other childcare. I think, for us, it is helping to open our eyes to the lifestyle of the other. He's taking on far more childcare and household chores while I am working. This obviously doesn't lighten my load any, but simply changes the amount of time we used to spend co-parenting. He's still adjusting to getting kids to bed without me, so there's still a bit of cleanup for me in the evening and days while with kids, but I expect he will manage better within a few weeks. Simply reducing our co-parenting time has helped a lot. We'll see how it goes.
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