Financial independence in a community property state - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 03-03-2014, 09:10 AM - Thread Starter
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So I'm not a single parent, but over the years I've thought seriously about whether my marriage can continue and I've always come upon a roadblock that seems so insurmountable to me -- achieving the level of financial independance that would physically allow me to leave in a community property state. The idea that I would essentially need to squirrel away double what I would actually need to set up my own household is so daunting as a sahm that I can't seem to figure out a way to think outside the box and find a way.

Even though at this time I'm not actively seeking a way out, I'm feeling I have to stay rather than am choosing to, and that does not help our relationship/family situation at all. I havent had meaningful employment since, well, ever. I had our first child at 21 and have occasionally held random jobs over the years but have mostly been a sahm in a household that as followed dh's work around the country. So here I sit now with five kids and no real way to support them without relying 100% on dh. His paycheck plus his spending habits leave no room for discreetly tucking away even a few dollars a month, and any job I could find would require his cooperation to balance childcare/schooling for the oldest three. Any money I could earn would be gone in a flash...because how could I explain that my paycheck was not "family" money without causing a giant mess, and if dh has access to it he will spend it. I could make peace with sending my older kids to school if I felt it would really benefit our family situation in the long run, but I just cant stomach the thought of being away from my babies (2yo and four months) in order to give most/all of my paycheck away to dh's spending habits.

So after all that, I guess what I'm looking for is how did you manage to put money aside without your ex knowing? And how did it work as far as the courts were concerned when it came time to divvy assets up? (we actually have no assests, other than my minivan...everything else we share is just debt - dh's truck, his boat, the trailer he bought to live in when he took an away job, his student loans, and medical bills). If I bust my balls to stash away enough cash to leave, I feel like I need to be prepared for how much the court is going to take of our "community property" to give to him.

I feel intimidated, too, because we live in a state that has very very strict guidelines for the minimal support they offer via fs, childcare assistance, etc. We live 1500 miles from my family (who would be a wonderful support if they were close enough to give it) in a very high COL, low job opportunity resort town that dh lobbied hard for when his last job ended and we needed a new place to go. I'm an incredibly shy and introverted person, and havent made any friends since we moved here about eight months ago. I dont really even want to leave him at this point because I feel like that would be a trauma to my children that I cant justify, but feeling trapped like this is having a serious impact on my mental health. I feel like I'd be able to accept a lot of things about my dh and our marriage that feel impossible now if I had the organization/financial means to make a different choice should I feel compelled.

Any thoughts, whether in answer to my specific question or just in general, are greatly appreciated. I feel so very stuck and welcome all viewpoints on how to un-stick, even if it's just to be told to get over it and accept being dependent until my kids are grown.
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#2 of 9 Old 03-03-2014, 10:12 AM
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Just posting to bump your thread and sending hugs your way.  I am hoping you will hear from mamas who have experience to share.

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#3 of 9 Old 03-03-2014, 06:20 PM
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My situation was a little different, but the feeling of being "stuck" is really familiar to me.  Honestly, I just could not imagine a way I could leave and be able to support myself and the kids.  I was paralyzed for a long time because I felt like making that big a change was just unimaginable.  Even once I made the decision to leave, I couldn't figure out how I was going to find a place to live with bad credit, little money, etc.  In the end, things somehow fell into place.  I live on very little, but we are just fine and have everything we need.  I know some people thought I was being irresponsible to leave while kind of trusting in the universe to make it work somehow, but I did what I felt was necessary at the time and I don't regret it at all. 


I would start thinking about a "worst case scenario" plan, what you would do if you had to leave right away.  Would your family lend you money?  Could you open a cc just in your name to get you started?   Maybe start looking for a job/childcare that you could start once he was out of the picture. 


Good luck!

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#4 of 9 Old 03-04-2014, 02:22 AM
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I can really relate to that stuck feeling, too. I wanted to leave for years and it took me a long time to figure out how to finance a move. My divorce was just finalized last month and I moved at that time, too, so this is all very recent. I don't have much money, but I get by, barely.


It sounds like you will qualify for child support and spousal support. The spousal support may be temporary to get you on your feet, but if you have been a SAHM 100% and haven't been able to develop your career, chances are very likely you will get some kind of support. I suggest talking to a lawyer about what your options are, many do free initial consultations and they can give you an idea of what you may be awarded. 


For legal fees, you may qualify for legal aid. Do you have family who can help? My parents were surprisingly supportive and helped me with a retainer and a security deposit on a new apartment. Everyone's situation is unique; I moved because my house had negative equity and it made more financial sense for me to let it go. But it may work out that you get your house, or you sell your house and get some of the money to use for a new place.


It's not an easy place to be in, the feeling unhappy and that your choices are slim. When you start getting some concrete information about what might happen should you decide to separate you will likely start feeling a lot freer.

Mom to DD 10 and DS 8.
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#5 of 9 Old 03-04-2014, 09:29 AM
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This is gonna sound awful, but this is also survival...


My exhusband decided he wanted a divorce in November 2009.  In December, he told me he wanted me and my son to move out in January.  This completely floored me- I had no indication before that that he wasn't happy.  Anyways, that pretty much left me with very little time to plan.  And, my family lived 200 miles away at the time.  I wasn't able to save much in that 6 week period, but I fudged the numbers a little bit.  I bought $60 of groceries, I told him I spent $75 and squirrelled away $15.  The bills were in his name, so I told him I paid the bills in full when I didn't- saved another $100 there.  Things like that.  The dogs went to the "vet".  Another $200 there.  My son had a "field trip" (he really did, but it was free), there's another $35 there.  It was the month of Christmas- I bought everything on sale, told him the non-sale prices, and kept the difference.  I didn't like the dishonesty, but it was a matter of survival for myself and my son.


Also, I started putting out feelers for financial assistance, and it wasn't easy, but my then 15 year old son and I shared a 1 bedroom apartment for a year and a half.  Eventually, I was able to move back to where my family lives.  There were no children from the marriage, but in your situation, you might be able to be allowed by the courts to move back with your family, providing you were able to continue the children's relationship with their father.


Also, I don't know if this is your situation or not, but if there's any kind of domestic abuse going on, there are so many Women's places that are able to help you, and may even be able to help you in some areas even if domestic abuse is not an issue.

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I pray for the day Family Court recognizes that CHILDREN have rights, parents only have PRIVILEGES.  Only then, will I know my child is safe.
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#6 of 9 Old 03-05-2014, 07:11 PM
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Is it even a remote possibility for dh to look for work closer to your family?  Moving after divorce with children is so hard, legally and otherwise.  

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#7 of 9 Old 03-07-2014, 07:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you for the ideas and support.  I think I'm just going to have to accept being patient and sloooowly build a little stash of cash as I can.  We really rarely use cash and as part of dh's accountability efforts we regularly go over the checking account statement with a fine tooth comb so opportunities are few and far between.  I also need to get over the intense guilty feelings I have being less than forthright with dh if I want to build myself a cushion.  I get hung up on the ethics of sneaking, lying by omission, and taking for myself what belongs to the family when those are the major issues I have with dh.  For now, I'm focusing on the fact that staying allows me to be with and homeschool my kids which is so important to me.  Feeling like I'm choosing them rather than just feeling stuck in my marriage helps my state of mind tremendously when I can maintain the line of thinking.   And probably I'm fooling myself, but I hold out a sliver of hope that dh and I can work out the issues between us and keep our family intact.  Again, thank you all...I appreciate having a safe place to feel out my options.


(Oh, and no -- he would not ever agree to move near my family.  We lived there twice, first while he was recovering from a series of back surgeries and again when he went into a treatment program.  He won't go back, case closed, no conversation allowed about it.  To be fair, it's not where I would choose to be, either, in any circumstance other than being a single parent ~ in which case I would appreciate the support of my family enough to tough out the rest.  But still be working towards and dreaming of the day when we could go back west.)

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#8 of 9 Old 03-10-2014, 12:50 PM
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To be honest, I would be cautious about building up a stash. That stash is still jointly owned and hiding assets could be used against you in a divorce.


I think I would worry instead about how to use your time now to gain the skills or experience you'd need to be able to financially support yourself. Could you take some classes? Volunteer in an area that would build job skills?  Do an evening/online program?  This would help you out a lot more in the long run than saving $15 today.


Also, I would consider how to get the entire family's finances in better order. Could you build your household savings? One thing that turned out to be a huge help in divorce was that a few years ago we did the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace thing, paid off a lot of household debts, and built up a good savings account. 

Erin, mom to DD (1/06) and DS (10/09)
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#9 of 9 Old 03-10-2014, 05:09 PM
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I think it's important for every woman to have access to emergency funds in her own name. If there is a way to do so openly then great. If not, then as long as it is disclosed during the divorce it can't be used against you. Just know that whatever you save will be split. But it's important to have access to cash for legal retainer fees, moving costs, etc.
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