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Part 1: Anticipating Divorce

Part 2: Calculating the Cost of Divorce

Part 3: Finding a Suitable Divorce Lawyer

Part 4: Housing Assistance

Part 5: Auto Assistance

Part 6: Day Care and Child Care Assistance

Part 7: Cash and Food Assistance Programs

Part 8: Further Education Assistance

Part 9: Medical and Health Insurance

Part 10: Starting a Business

Part 11: Loans and Banking

Part 12: Improving Your Credit Score

Conclusion

32 minute read

Financial Planning Ultimate Guide: Helping Single Parents with Divorce

Divorce can have a devastating impact on your bank account, especially with children involved. This guide will help you navigate the divorce process effectively, so that you can still adequately support yourself and your children.

While financial arrangements can be tricky, you are not alone. There are plenty of state and federal assistance programs that are specifically designed to help struggling single parents get back on their feet. Utilizing these programs will ensure you and your children will not only have sufficient means to live, but can continue to lead a healthy, normal life.

However, navigating this tricky territory can be difficult. It can be even more confusing if you've spent a long time relying on your spouse's income. The legal fees involved aren't cheap. And, when you're facing increased living, transport and child support costs, the whole process can seem somewhat daunting.

The first and perhaps most serious issue is, of course, the financial strain. Many families struggle to make ends meet on two-parent salaries, but what has led to the single parenthood – divorce, death or abandonment – can cause an even greater financial stress.

Patrice M Forster, Nurse and Blogger

In this Guide you'll learn:

Part 1: Anticipating Divorce

Part 2: Calculating the Cost of Divorce

Part 3: Finding a Suitable Divorce Lawyer

Part 4: Housing Assistance

Part 5: Auto Assistance

Part 6: Day Care and Child Care Assistance

Part 7: Cash and Food Assistance Programs

Part 8: Further Education Assistance

Part 9: Medical and Health Insurance

Part 10: Starting a Business

Part 11: Loans and Banking

Part 12: Improving Your Credit Score

 

PART 1 /
Anticipating Divorce

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure – this age-old mantra is just as relevant with divorce as it is medicine. When separation is on the horizon, start taking precautionary measures as soon as possible. This will minimize the damage.

Keep a Paper Trail

Distinguishing what constitutes a marital asset isn't always as straightforward as it seems. For example, if a car was purchased prior to the divorce, that car would belong to the buyer. However, if that car was sold during the marriage in order to purchase a new car, then the new car could be considered a joint asset.

By having a traceable paper trail, you can show the courts exactly how and where your non-marital assets have been transferred. This increases your chances of claiming specific goods as your sole property.

Start Your Own Credit History

Unfortunately, if your spouse has a poor credit history, his or her background may reflect negatively on you, even if you've never applied for credit in the past. If you share bank accounts, assets and debt, retract your liability (if possible). While this won't remove past misconduct or blemishes on your file, you will no longer have to worry about your spouse's future financial mismanagement and how it could affect you.

It's all too common for wives and husbands to spend years living off their spouse's finances, never managing to build a decent credit history of their own. If you're currently in this situation, it's time to start working on your own credit. Otherwise, you may find it difficult to acquire the credit you might need in the future. Almost every form of finance, from a bank loan to a car sale, will require a credit check to ensure you're responsible.

To boost your credit score, consider the following options:

Open a bank account in your own name.

This is the first step to be on your way to good credit.

Add your name to household bills and investments.

This will help you establish a history of on-time payments.

Apply for a credit card in your name and keep on top of bill payments.

Tip: for the best credit score, don't exceed 30 percent of the total balance. One small purchase per month is enough to significantly boost your credit score.

Keep Track of Your Finances

When the breakup is settled and legal proceedings are about to begin, money and assets can "conveniently" disappear. Keep all of your regular statements in place and close or freeze any joint accounts or credit cards.

Remember, your spouse will probably be doing exactly the same thing, so prepare for unexpected account withdrawals.

Take Your Social Security Benefits into Account

While you should never stay in an unhappy marriage, you should at least consider the implications that divorce could have on your future. If you come from a single income family and haven't worked long enough to qualify for Social Security benefits, under certain circumstances, you may be entitled to the same amount as your spouse.

To find out more, contact your local Social Security Administration office.

Open a Bank Account

Open a new bank account in your own name if you don't already have one. Transfer any personal savings into the account, and redirect your salary.

Expect some fireworks if you don't inform your spouse of the move prior to discussing divorce. Take into account that only the mediator or the courts can decide what constitutes a reasonable sum of money.

Therefore, taking more than what's deemed appropriate could leave you with a lower settlement.

Safeguard Personal Property

Depending on the nature of your divorce, it may be worth getting a safety deposit box or storage facility until the procedures are legally sound. If you're concerned that your spouse will damage, destroy or steal your personal belongings, best keep them out of sight and out of mind until everything is settled.

If you can't afford a storage facility, ask a trustworthy friend or family member to take care of them. But be careful who you choose as friends tend to take sides during a divorce, so you may want to pick someone you knew before you got married.

Sell Joint Assets

Liquid marriages are the easiest to dissolve and often the most amicable. Sometimes it pays to sell off joint assets before the procedures even begin: second home, boat, car, etc. While legal tensions over certain joint assets are inevitable, coming to a mutual agreement over your other belongings without going through the courts is a better solution.

Stop Taking Out Joint Credit

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's not uncommon for a couple on the brink of divorce to take out a joint loan to cover their looming expenses like, moving, child care, and transport. However, if you take this approach and your spouse doesn't keep up to date on their monthly repayments, you will be mutually responsible.

That means you may have to pay for debt that he or she has caused. And, that's not to mention the possible blemishes on your credit.

Protect Your Mutual Assets

Mutual assets are belongings that you legally and morally share with your spouse. If you have assets that you both own on paper, buyouts can be arranged as part of the divorce procedure.

The buyout figure is usually equal to the difference. For example, if your spouse paid 60 percent of the overall price for a particular asset, and you paid 40 percent, they should (theoretically) reimburse you the 40 percent in order to retain sole ownership.

However, take note that other external factors, such as vehicle depreciation, may be taken into account.

Update Your Will and Insurance Policies

A divorce is a good time to sit back and review all of that documentation that gets stored away until later in life. Remove your ex from your will and amend and update the assets.

Find a new benefactor and inform all of your insurance companies of your change of situation. This will ensure that you don't end up paying for an invalid scheme.

Find the Right Lawyer

As a general rule, the more heated the divorce, the greater the expenses. While it's important to find a lawyer that you can trust and feel comfortable with, make sure you understand what they're asking for in advance.

If the divorce turns sour as many do, the legal fees could balloon. Set a cap in advance and inform the lawyer how much you're willing to spend, as well as which battles (assets, custody agreements, etc.) are worth fighting for.

As William Blake once said, "Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but foresight is better."

 

PART 2 /
Calculating the Cost of Divorce

According to Forbes, the average cost of a divorce is between $15,000 and $30,000, most of which is spent on legal fees. While these figures are high, they are also misleading. The real cost is often considerably more when taking loss of income and lifestyle changes into account.

Lawyer Fees

Legal fees will widely vary depending on: your location, the status of your attorney, the number of contested issues, and the length of the proceedings. Most divorce lawyers will charge at least $75 per hour; however, it's not uncommon for larger law firms to charge $450 per hour or more.

While some firms will offer a flat rate for each contested issue, this rarely includes the cost of the trial itself. If you have a low income, your local legal aid clinic may provide a lawyer for you free of charge.

Uncontested Divorce

In an uncontested divorce, both parties will agree on all aspects of the dissolution, such as the support payments, property distribution and child custody. Because the divorce doesn't go to trial, the costs are significantly cheaper.

While it's possible to resolve a divorce without hiring a lawyer, it is not recommended. If you choose to take this route, consider using an online service to ensure everything remains cheap, yet legally binding.

There are many companies out there that can offer basic digital services for as little as $250.

Mediation and Corroboration Procedures

Unlike uncontested and trial-led divorces, mediation and corroboration is designed for couples that just have minor disagreements. In some states mediation must occur before a divorce even goes to trial.

While mediators can be expensive, they are significantly cheaper than divorce lawyers, costing an average of $5,000.

Additional Costs

The cost of divorce spreads far beyond court fees and legal counsel. There are plenty of other expenses that you must also take into consideration, such as where you will live, moving fees, transportation, child counseling and day care.

While you should never remain in an unhappy marriage for financial reasons alone, you should at least assess the consequences before you take the plunge.

Knowing ahead of time what to expect will make it a lot easier to handle.

Breaching the Topic

Divorce is rarely entirely amicable, especially when you have children, finances and assets to formally discuss. To facilitate a successful outcome, you must be emotionally equipped to make big decisions, and ensure that your spouse isn't going to run riot and make the legal procedures difficult for you.

Visit the Custody X Change Mindful Guide to Co-Parenting for detailed information about how to navigate these tricky waters and ensure your children grow up in a stable environment.

Unfortunately, you can never anticipate the true cost of divorce in advance. There will always be something that you've failed to consider. Over-budgeting will offer protection against any unforeseen expenses and ensure you're not left completely penniless after the legalities are settled.

"The first tip single parents can follow is putting together a safety net fund. Readily available emergency resources help alleviate any problems that often arise without warning such as car troubles, health scares or accidents, etc. Having money on hand to handle such matters expediently eliminates stress and further financial struggle."

Anderson Advisors., Legal, Business & Tax Advisors

 

PART 3 /
Finding a Suitable Divorce Lawyer

Lawyers are not your friends; they are business acquaintances. But a good lawyer will always make you feel welcome and comfortable in their presence. Beware of false prophets and use your instinct when making a decision.

Understand Their Purpose

Remember that the purpose of hiring a divorce lawyer is so you and your spouse can legally and fairly divide your assets and resolve custody disputes. Make no mistake, they are not there to listen to your anger and frustrations. If you need to vent, hire a therapist.

A lawyer will feel no shame keeping the clock running, and rightly so. A specialist divorce lawyer will have seen it all and may not respond to your sadness and distress like a friend or family member would. They see people in your situation every day, so do not judge them for showing little emotion.

Stay Focused

Your primary goal should be to finalize the procedures in a quick and amicable manner. The longer you fight for material things, the more expensive your final bill will become.

Make sure your lawyer understands what belongings are important to you and what's not worth the hassle, otherwise the fight for a particular asset could exceed its worth. Sometimes it's better to swallow your pride and move on.

Shop Around

There is more than one way to negotiate the terms of a divorce. If an amicable compromise is possible, consider hiring a mediator instead of a lawyer. This will be significantly cheaper.

Remember that a divorce lawyer will want your business. To them you are a potential client; therefore, they will actively try to steer you down the legal route.

Don't settle for the first or cheapest lawyer that you find. Look for somebody who is local and has experience with family law.

The law can differ depending on your location, so you must find a candidate who has worked within your jurisdiction and knows the most appropriate legal strategy. And lastly, always check your chosen lawyer's trial record and history of success.

Be On Guard

Look out for red flags the second you set foot in a lawyer's office. If an attorney starts divulging confidential information about other clients in order to persuade you to go with them, it's more than likely they will do the same to other clients about you.

If they seem distracted by other clients, cancel meetings or take phone calls during your consultation, look elsewhere. A lawyer who can't give you the time of day when you need it is not worth the money.

Don't let pride stand in your way. A lawyer is better equipped to understand when you're fighting a losing battle, so heed their advice if they recommend throwing in the towel. When you're preparing for court, finances should always take precedence, especially if you have children to think about.

 

PART 4 /
Housing Assistance

Finding safe and affordable housing in the wake of divorce can pose a difficult challenge. When you have financial limitations, finding quality housing can seem like an unreachable goal. As a result, many divorcees find themselves living in squalor, high crime areas, or even out on the streets.

Housing assistance is available for a reason and should always be utilized if you're in need – there's no shame in admitting that you need financial help. When it comes to shelter, providing a safe and secure living space for you and your children is paramount.

Emergency Housing

When you and your children are in a serious housing predicament, emergency housing is available on a short-term basis. Options include homeless shelters, boarding houses and group homes.

If there is nothing available, your state welfare subsidy may pay for accommodation in a hotel or hostel. Call your local agency to find out.

Affordable Housing (Section 8)

Low cost rent or mortgage payments may be granted with Section 8 vouchers. The Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) Program provides funding to non-profit organizations and local governments to help low income families pay for housing.

The Housing Choice Voucher Program is a federal program that was established to help low-income families, pensioners and disabled people afford safe and sanitary private housing. The vouchers are awarded by local public housing agencies (PHAs), which receive funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The following requirements must be met in order to qualify for Section 8 housing vouchers as a low income family:

You and your family must be U.S. citizens or non-U.S. citizens with eligible immigration status.

Your household income should not exceed 50 percent of the median income for the county.

All submitted information must be verified with local agencies, banks and employers.

The PHA will determine if your family is eligible. If selected, you will usually be placed on a waiting list. The demand usually exceeds the available funds; therefore, families whose income doesn't exceed 30 percent of the total median average income will be prioritized.

Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program

Established in 1983 alongside the signing of the Jobs Stimulus Bill, the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) provides funding to organizations that aim to offer food and shelter to poverty stricken citizens. If you are a struggling single parent, the funds can also be used to help you make mortgage, rent or bill payments.

A Bridge of Hope

The aim of the charitable organization, A Bridge of Hope, is to prevent homelessness for women and children across the United States by using Christian churches and religious traditions. Aside from deep, long-lasting friendships, the organization can provide permanent housing, employment and advice on holistic living.

The Nurturing Network

For years The Nurturing Network has been dedicated to alleviating abuse, neglect and exploitation among America's most vulnerable women. The organization can provide education, training and life's necessities to single moms in need.

With a developed network of pregnancy resource centers, The Nurturing Network is extensively equipped to provide emotional and physical support to single, pregnant mothers.

YWCA USA

The YWCA USA organization has many functions, namely to eliminate racism, empower women, and help families in need. As one of the oldest and largest women's organizations in America, YWCA USA has helped over two million families during its 150 years.

Whether you need support against domestic violence, funding for a literacy program, child care services, or even job training, YMCA USA will help you get back on your feet.

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is dedicated to providing the basic necessities of life, be it food, shelter, warmth or simply a shoulder to cry on. Over 30 million people received help in 2015 alone, including struggling families and single parents.

People in need can find hunger relief, housing assistance and even recreation camps. For more information, get in touch with your local community center.

Catholic Charities USA

There are more than 160 Catholic Charities across the country, each providing a vast array of social services. Whether you are a member of the Catholic faith or not, they will help.

CoAbode

Two people are stronger than one. Sharing a home with other single parents can significantly reduce stress and ease financial burdens.

CoAbode helps single mothers combine their resources in order to help each other improve their quality of life. The organization also provide affordable housing, specialized support and vital resources that make the living situation for all involved parties easier to bear.

Weatherization Program

The U.S Department of Energy (DOE) has a Weatherization Assistance Program that provides grants and financial assistance to low income families looking to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. Since the program began in 1976 it has helped over seven million families reduce their energy bills.

Each state has its own income requirements for the Weatherization Assistance Program. To apply, contact your local weatherization agency. Applications take approximately 20 minutes to complete and must contain proof of income. If you are deemed eligible, you will be placed on a waiting list.

When your local weatherization agency is ready to move forward, they will perform an energy audit of your home. This assessment will analyze your monthly bills and energy equipment, and then provide a recommended list of conservation measures.

Note that the Weatherization Assistance Program does not include roofing, siding or structural improvements.

 

PART 5 /
Auto Assistance

One of the toughest aspects of being a single parent is financial survival; you need to work to earn your keep, yet you often need savings to work. If transportation is preventing you from seeking employment, there are numerous federal and charitable programs available.

Surveys conducted by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) showed that the majority of single mothers found themselves with limited or no access to a car. For many, this makes working impossible.

Free Charity Cars

All throughout the United States, people are more than happy to give away their cars to single parents struggling to make ends meet. While there are considerably more applicants than available cars this is an option that is certainly worth pursuing.

All you have to do is visit the website and fill out the forms. Once your application has been reviewed your story will be made public, allowing members of the community (including your own family and friends) to vote for your profile.

Cars will be awarded to the person who has the most votes - http://www.freecharitycars.org

Working Cars for Working Families

When you can't get a free car, Working Cars for Working Families is here to ensure you get a fair deal. This non-profit charity is designed for help working families finance used cars at a fair price.

When people donate cars to the organization, they can qualify for a significant tax write off; therefore, there are plenty of supporters who provide decent vehicles for little cost.

To apply visit the website and fill out the application form that corresponds to your state – http://www.workingcarsforworkingfamilies.org

Vehicles for Change

While used car dealerships can offer value for money, it's not uncommon for a used vehicle to come with a high interest loan and questionable history report. Vehicles for Change (VFC) isn't a traditional donation program; however, it offers used cars at an even more affordable rate than a used dealership.

Unlike other forms of donation program, VFC will source the right car for the right family, rather than using a next-in-line system. For example, a single parent with four children may require an SUV, while a single parent who requires something a little more robust for work-related purposes may need a truck.

If you require a specific type of vehicle, VFC is definitely worth considering – https://www.vehiclesforchange.org

Federal Assistance Programs

If you have a case worker from a local social services organization, speak to them. Most will understand that lack of transportation is a highly valid reason for unemployment. Budgets, grants and laws change constantly, and not all of them are open for public applications; therefore, you'll never know what's available unless you ask.

If you're a single parent, having a working vehicle is extremely important, both professionally and socially. Start making arrangements and posting applications for transportation support as soon as possible as it can take a lot of time before something becomes available.

 

PART 6 /
Day Care and Child Care Assistance

Child care is expensive, especially for single parents. The average cost of a center-based day care facility can be upwards of $10,00 per year.

This is a huge expense, even for couples in stable families. Fortunately, there are plenty of federal, state and county assistance programs available.

Apply for Tax Credits

You should always check the guidelines for Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit if you're a single parent. Many fail to claim for tax credits as they don't realize they are eligible. If successful, you could gain up to $1,200 in tax savings by simply completing IRS form 2441.

State Assistance

Every state will offer its own financial assistance for child care. While the type and quantity of aid will heavily vary, most will provide some form of grant. If taking this approach be prepared to undertake strict income assessments if your children are under 13.

Not all states will distribute grants in the same way. While many will offer financial assistance by depositing funds directly into your bank account, others may pay daycare centers directly.

Help from Human Resources

If you're employed, check with your human resources department to find out if you are eligible for any benefits. Many companies will provide subsidies specifically to help employees cover child care expenses. Some large organizations may even have their own on-site child care facilities.

Open a Flexible Spending Account

A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is a special account that is tax-free. The money you are permitted to deposit into this account must be equal to the taxes that you would pay if all of your funds were deposited in a "standard" bank account. Money from this account can be used to cover child care costs.

If you and your ex both contribute, you could save up to $2,000 per year.

Contact the Head Start Program

Launched in 1965 by director Jule Sugarman, the Head Start Program is a United States Department of Health and Human Services program that was developed to help low-income families foster stable relationships.

Each year over one million children and families from low-income urban and rural areas (in all 50 states) get free pre-school education and health screenings that target cognitive, social and emotional development. To be eligible your must fall below the federal poverty level.

Seek Help from Educational Establishments

Most colleges and universities will offer financial assistance for child care expenses. Some may also provide free or low-cost, on-site care for students.

If you or your ex are a full-time student at an institution that doesn't offer such services, consider applying for a hardship fund instead, citing child care expenses in your application. Almost every college and university will set aside funding for students in need.

Seek Help from Religious Organizations

Religious organizations often provide low-cost or free daycare services to members of the local community. If you have a religious affiliation, contact your church to find out if anything is available.

Alternatively, check your local scout or community hall. Many will host single parent meet-ups and Children's Feelings Groups, which could be the perfect place to meet other parents to make child care arrangements with.

Managing Child Care Expenses

Over 63 percent of parents pay more for child care services than they originally expected. While these costs should be split between both parents, it can still be quite a shock to your finances.

Child care is one of the biggest annual expenses for parents, costing approximately $18,000 per year.

The average cost of a nanny is $477 per week for one child or $488 per week for two children. Day care centers are significantly cheaper, costing an average of $188 per week for one child and $341 per week for two children. If you are going through a divorce and need to compensate for a lack of residence, a day care center is probably the most viable option. However, if you have a more permanent solution, using an in-home day care provider, such as an au pair or nanny, may be more suitable.

Track Your Expenses for Reimbursement

Who pays for what, and when those payments are due is always one of the primary topics of divorce arrangements. However, without accurate quotes and a solid idea of how much everything will cost, it can be a difficult topic to negotiate.

Always track expenses so you know exactly how much money you've spent on your children. This will help you and the other parent keep updated on parental finances and accurately determine who owes what.

Custody X Change allows you to write the amount and description of the expense, and then assign it a category. You can also calculate what percentage you are both supposed to pay and how much you should be reimbursed.

At the end of the day, week, month or even year, you may then print out a consolidated invoice that will show the other parent how much they owe. This document can be exported in PDF, Word, or Excel form.

 

PART 7 /
Cash and Food Assistance Programs

It's estimated that one in five children in the USA, or more than 15 million, live below the poverty line, and over 1.6 million experience homelessness at some point before they reach adulthood. Many Americans rely on cash and food assistance programs to survive.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – previously called the Food Stamp Program – is a federal aid program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It currently provides assistance to around 46.5 million Americans, and distributes an average of $125.35 per person, per month.

The amount of SNAP benefits you will be entitled to depends on your income, house size and expenses.

While some states still provide paper coupons, which resemble the dollar bill, most have opted for the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT). When using the EBT, funds are deposited directly onto a debit card that can only be used to pay for food in supermarkets and convenience stores.

SNAP benefits may be used to purchase:

Fruits and vegetables

Breads and cereals

Dairy products

Fish, poultry, and meat

Consumable seeds and plants

SNAP benefits may NOT be used to purchase:

Alcoholic beverages

Cigarettes and/or tobacco

Household supplies

Soaps and paper products

Pet food

Fast food

Vitamins and medications

Energy drinks

Live animals

Certain other items, such as gift baskets and birthday cakes, are permitted only if the value of the non-edible items contained doesn't exceed 50 percent of the retail price. If you're ever in doubt about what is eligible, contact your local SNAP benefits office.

To qualify for SNAP benefits your gross income before deductions may be no more than 130 percent of the federal poverty level. Each state also has its own application process. To check your state guidelines and apply for the SNAP program, contact your local headquarters.

National School Lunch Program

The National School Lunch Program is a federal assistance program that operates in public, private and residential child care institutions. Families with an income at or below 130 percent or of the national poverty level are entitled to free meals, while those with an income between 130 and 185 percent are eligible for reduced priced meals.

Local Food Banks

Around one in seven Americans face hunger. Fortunately, there are more than 60,000 food pantries and meal programs across the country.

Many of these operations also run student cooking and food safety programs, which can provide jobs and education within the food service industry.

Summer Food Assistance Program

The Summer Food Assistance Program (SFSP) provides free meals during vacations, when children no longer have access to school meals. SFSP services are provided through a variety of different sites, including schools, government organizations, summer camps, churches and day care centers.

If eligible for the SFSP program, your children will be entitled to free or reduced priced meals. Like the National School Lunch Program, you must have a total household income of between 130 and 185 percent of the poverty level to receive reduced price meals, or less than 130 percent to receive free meals.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is available for low-income women, and children up to the age of five, who are at risk of nutritional deficiencies. The program provides a food and nutrition/breastfeeding advice.

While hunger can affect people of all ages, children are at the greatest risk. Poor nutrition in early childhood can inhibit their ability to learn, and could lead to serious health issues in later life.

The WIC is administered by the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service. If eligible, you can receive monthly food packages designed specifically to supply a balanced and adequate amount of nutrients.

Nutrition counseling may also be available, if required.

When your children's development is at stake, you cannot take chances. Simply providing a healthy, balanced diet can be very difficult when you're having financial problems. With so many American's waiting for support, there sooner you apply, the better.

"You must devise a plan and stick to it. Even though it's tough, a monthly budget will help you gain control of your money. When starting a budget, it's important to remember the four walls — food, shelter, transportation and clothing. Once those things are covered, establish a $1,000 emergency fund."

Dave Ramsey, Author, Businessman, Media Personality

 

PART 8 /
Further Education Assistance

Student life is never easy, but having children shouldn't stop you from pursuing your dream and undertaking further education. In the grand scheme of things, investing in yourself could really pay off, however difficult it may be.

There are private companies, educational institutions and government programs helping students in need.

The Federal Work-Study Program

The U.S. Department of Education's Federal Work-Study Program is designed to provide needy students with money to subsidize post-secondary education. It is available to around 3,400 educational institutions throughout America.

By applying you could also be awarded a job opportunity that enables you to work and earn a living around your study schedule.

Scholarships

Each year, we at Custody X Change offer three Single Parent Scholarships.

There are lots of private scholarships popping up all the time. Check your university's website and ask their financial aid department for any information they have on scholarships.

Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a government grant scheme that has grants available for single parents who are enrolled in college (you can apply for FAFSA grants alongside other scholarship schemes).

Federal, state and county grant schemes come and go on a yearly basis, so if you're seeking financial aid, be sure to keep checking and asking. Scour the Internet for other opportunities.

 

PART 9 /
Medical and Health Insurance

Sadly, many parents who are going through divorce don't have access to basic health and medical insurance. However, there are options to ensure the safety of you and your children.

Seek Free and Low Cost Medical Insurance

Every state in the U.S. will offer some kind of free or low-cost health insurance for children. The most common programs are Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP); however, the names and eligibility requirements may differ between states. For example, in Maine the program is called MaineCare.

CHIP coverage will include:

Routine checkups

Immunizations

Visits to the doctor

Dental and vision

Prescriptions

Laboratory and X-ray services

Hospital care (inpatient and outpatient)

Emergency care

To begin the application process for Medicaid and/or CHIP, visit healthcare.gov.

Apply for Tax Credits

Even if you are not eligible for Medicaid or CHIP, you may qualify for tax breaks that could help you pay for health and medical insurance. Most programs will pay money directly to the insurer, allowing to gain coverage at a lower fee. To see if you will be eligible for tax credits, you can get a rough estimate via: Get Insured.

Health and medical insurance in one of life's necessities. You never know when you'll need it; Waiting until you can afford it yourself is not an option. If you need help, apply for support immediately for the good of both you and your children.

 

PART 10 /
Starting a Business

Starting a business during times of financial uncertainty isn't always wise. However, if you've ever had a dream of becoming your own boss or turning your hobby into a financially rewarding venture, don't let divorce stop you!

Business Grants

There are various federal and state grants offering capital to single women starting small businesses. For example, the Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR) can provide funding for research and development within the tech sector.

Acquiring a small business grant can be difficult as the number of applicants far outweigh the receivers. If you have a great idea that already shows promise as has possibly started generating revenue, it'll be a lot easier.

Women's Business Centers

The U.S. Small Business Administration operates a vast network of women's business centers throughout every state, offering free training to female entrepreneurs and resources that can help you get up-and-running.

Many also provide short courses in accounting, bookkeeping and other related skill-sets, and will assign you your own personal mentor. Some will also provide grant and loan packages if you complete the training.

Community Development Financial Institution Program (CDFI)

The Community Development Financial Institution Program (CDFI) is a subsidiary of the U.S. Treasury Department that works closely with the Small Business Administration.

The organization's aim is to help small businesses in undeserved communities to flourish. This includes low-income families who aren't entitled to traditional financing options, such as bank loans.

Working Online

In today's highly connected, digital world, you can quite easily use your existing skills to earn money on the Internet. If you're a writer, photographer, filmmaker, website designer, graphic artist or even a sales representative, you can find plenty of opportunities on freelancing websites such as People Per Hour and Upwork.

Other options include:

Etsy

If you have a creative side that needs unleashing

Flexjobs

If you're looking for something a little more permanent

Ebay

If you need to get rid of all that unwanted junk after going through a breakup

ProBlogger

If you can write and want to your hand at copywriting

Just like any other type of business, it can take a while to establish yourself in the online world. However, it can be a viable source of income when things are up in the air.

There's nothing more rewarding than building something from the ground up. Starting a business isn't easy; it'll be a very steep uphill battle. However, you will eventually find a natural rhythm that will suit your work and parenting schedule.

 

PART 11 /
Loans and Banking

Contrary to popular belief, loans aren't entirely bad. However, they should only ever be taken out if you have a viable contingency plan.

Financial snowballing is a common occurrence among single parents and couples going through divorce. This occurs when monthly expenditure exceeds income, leading to fees and penalty charges that build up and become unmanageable.

Good Debt

Believe it or not, there really is such a thing a "good debt." The definition generally revolves around investments that will generate income or reduce expenditure over the course of time.

For example: acquiring a loan to build your credit score and qualify for lower interest loans in the future, taking out a low interest student loan to invest in your future career, or getting a mortgage to lower your monthly rental costs and acquire an asset.

Good debt can seem scary on the surface, but with the right financial management, it can be very helpful.

Credit Cards

Getting a credit card can be one of the best and fasted ways to build your credit score. However, it can also be very dangerous if you're not responsible.

Only take out a credit card if you have a viable contingency plan in place. Never spend more than 30 percent of your total credit limit, and make sure you pay off your balance every month to prevent interest payments. Defaulting, even once, could be detrimental to your finances.

If you already have debt from multiple credit cards, consider consolidating everything into one manageable plan. This may reduce your interest rates and make payments easier to manage.

Bank Loans

It's a common occurrence for a couple on the brink of divorce to take out a joint loan to cover their legal fees, especially if one of them wouldn't qualify on their own. This, however, is very dangerous.

If you take this approach your spouse's actions will affect your credit score. In addition, you will be liable to late or missing payments.

When divorce is inevitable it's always safer to make all your financial decisions alone. The more disconnected you are from a legal standpoint the better.

Bank Overdrafts

Most banks will offer you an interest-free overdraft if you have a good credit score. While it's better to take out an overdraft than to acquire debt from a credit card or bank loan, you should still make every effort to avoid them.

Payday Loans

When in a state of financial turmoil it can be tempting to seek solace with a payday loan. While they may relieve short-term monetary burdens, there are absolutely no circumstances when they are recommended.

Payday loans often have an average APR of 36 to 40 percent, which is enough to cause severe financial snowballing. And providers take advantage of the underprivileged by making them available to individuals who wouldn't otherwise qualify for a traditional bank loan.

In addition to the excessively high interest rates, over half of all payday loan customers are hit by bank overdraft fees. This is not only expensive, but could significantly harm your credit. Even if a payday loan feels like the only way out of a difficult situation, it will not be worth the trouble.

Speak to Your Bank

Most banks will offer emergency controlled accounts to customers who are unable to meet repayment demands and find themselves accumulating more and more debt. These accounts will place a cap on charges such as overdraft penalties, interest, and failed direct debit fees.

The purpose of controlled banking is to help clients break free from financial turmoil by completely eliminating the chance of snowballing.

If you'd like help understanding the processes and procedures of day-to-day banking, arrange a meeting with your local account manager.

Speak to Your Spouse

When you're going through divorce it's only natural to want to distance yourself from your spouse. While you probably should sever all financial ties, you should accept money and assets if they are offered during the mediation process, providing they won't affect your legal standing or divorce settlement in the future.

 

PART 12 /
Improving Your Credit Score

Your credit history is essentially a snapshot of your financial life, used by creditors such as banks to determine how reliable you are. When you're going through a divorce there's not much you can do if you've already accumulated blemishes on your credit record.

That said, understanding your previous financial mishaps will help you make better decisions in the future.

Understand Your Credit Score

Each credit score is assigned a specific number, which corresponds to a level of risk. There are three main categories: poor, average, good.

The higher your credit rating the more likely you are to be offered a high amount of money at a low interest rate. The opposite applies for low credit ratings.

The most commonly used credit scores are provided by the Fair Isaac Corporation, also known as FICO. They can range from 300 (poor) to 850 (very good).

Anything above 700 is generally considered risk-free.

Calculate Your Credit Score

There are three major credit bureaus that collect information from public records and use it to create a credit report: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

Almost every creditor in America will use one of these services. In addition, banks and financial institutions may also have their own in-house system that they can use in conjunction with public systems in order to make a more reliable assessment.

The credit bureaus will:

Collect personal information used to identify you, such as your name, current address, and previous addresses

Compile a list of credit accounts and reports from previous creditors (energy suppliers, phone suppliers, banks, etc)

Check public records for information from debt collection agencies

Assess any previous credit inquiries made within the last two years

All of these elements together contribute to your credit score. Therefore, if any one of them is out of balance with the others, it will reduce the overall number.

Disassociate Yourself from Your Spouse

Separate all of your credit ties with your spouse. The implications of being attached to somebody with poor credit can be huge and may affect you for many years to come, especially if they have declared bankruptcy in the past.

Most blemishes on your credit score will remain for at least seven years and up to ten years for in the case of bankruptcy. However, with any luck, the blemishes that were caused by your spouse may be removed or downgraded in severity.

Dispute Past Blemishes

Is has been estimated that approximately 80 percent of all consumer credit reports contain errors. Having a blemish on your credit score is not a be all and end all as most people will have one or two, and creditors are unlikely to deny you finance for a one-off slip-up. They will be more concerned about trends, such as regular late payments of energy bills, failed mortgage payments, and maxed out credit cards.

If you have blemishes on your credit record that you weren't aware of or were caused by a reason beyond your control then dispute them. Send a letter of complaint to the creditor and request a reversal. If you have a viable reason for the unpaid or late credit, they may wipe it from your record.

Stop Applying for Credit

Every time you sign up to a new finance agreement, raise your credit balance, or check your credit score, a note will be placed on your credit report. While it's only natural to accumulate credit checks, especially when you're going through divorce and have to transfer the names of account holders for bill payments, too many of them can look suspicious.

Don't check your credit score more than once every three months, and only ever apply to raise your overall balance if you genuinely need to.

Consider Getting More Credit (But Be Warned!)

Contrary to popular belief, a higher credit balance can actually improve your overall score. If your total credit line is $3,600, then you can in theory, withdraw up to $1,200 without hindering your credit score (providing you stay up-to-date with the minimum payments).

Creditors will look favorably upon people who don't exceed a limit of around one third of their available total credit. Therefore, if you stay within this bracket you should be safe.

If you have a credit card with $1,200 of credit limit and you use $600 or half of your total, increasing your card limit will move this total down into a "less risky" bracket. While this approach can be effective for building your credit score quickly, use it with caution.

Although blemishes will remain on your credit report for years, creditors will place the most emphasis on the previous 24 months. In the very worst scenario, you'll have two years of damage control. While this may not be enough to satisfy high-end lenders and attract low interest rates, etc., it will almost certainly qualify you for credit.

 

Conclusion

Single parenting isn't easy, but you are not alone. Hopefully you now have a better idea of how to take control of your finances and ensure your divorce runs smoothly. We all want to work and contribute to society, but that doesn't mean we all receive the economy that we deserve.

Hardship funds, government grants and charitable organizations have been set up for a reason, so if you need assistance, utilize them. There's no shame in seeking financial help.

"My number one tip for successful single parenting is also my number one tip for successful co-parenting; my number one tip for successful any-kind-of-parenting; my number one tip for life in general... Are you ready? Just let go of how you think it should be."

Vicky Charles, Blogger at Single Mother Ahoy