Divorced Women & Income Effects

by Beverly Bird

    While men might feel an economic pinch post-divorce, especially when they must pay child support or alimony on top of their own living expenses, the Utah State University Cooperative Extension indicates that as many as one out of every five divorced women actually falls below the poverty level following a divorce. Several circumstances contribute to this, and they often intertwine to make the situation worse.

    Budget Issues

    Before divorce, two incomes usually service household expenses. When one spouse moves out, the one who retains the marital home must meet all those expenses on her own. The Utah State University Cooperative Extension indicates that divorcees must increase their monthly incomes by about 30 percent to maintain the same lifestyle they enjoyed while married. Because women generally don’t earn as much as men, they’re often at even more of a disadvantage. According to attorney Jeffrey M. Bloom, quoting the U.S. Census Bureau, women earned 77 percent less than men in 2009.

    Employment-Related Benefits

    Because many women work in lower-paying fields, their jobs don’t always provide options for retirement benefits or low-cost health insurance. Even when fathers cover the children on their own policies, most insurance companies will not allow a husband to maintain coverage for his spouse after divorce. Women often must pay for their own health insurance post-divorce, a considerable expense added to what may be an already strained budget. Lower-paying jobs also mean less money paid into Social Security and retirement plans, jeopardizing their eventual retirement incomes.

    Impact of Custody

    Judges award child custody to women in 70 percent of divorce cases, according to Divorce Lawyer Source. But the Utah State University Cooperative Extension indicates that four out of five of those women don’t regularly receive the full amount of child support ordered by the court. This leaves many women in the position of meeting all or most child-related expenses on their own. Working more hours to try to increase income often only results in higher childcare costs, making any actual income gain minimal. Most states incorporate work-related childcare into their child support calculations. However, when fathers don’t pay or fall behind in child support, women must still pay these costs on their own to be able to continue working.

    Preventative Measures

    Many women are reluctant to move their children out of the family home, so they endeavor to keep the marital home rather than move to more affordable accommodations. If a woman is tempted to do this, she should make an honest assessment of her income and expenses first. She should add up all her sources of income without including court-ordered alimony or child support unless she's very sure her ex-husband will keep current with the payments. She should then look at the monthly expenses she'll have to pay on her own if she keeps the home. If the two totals are close, she might be able to make ends meet by giving up a few luxury items, such as cable TV. But if that won’t bridge the gap between income and expenses, she might be better off relocating. The Utah State University Cooperative Extension indicates that one out of every three divorced women with children loses her home after divorce. Relocating might be stressful and not ideal, but it might be better than the alternative.

    About the Author

    Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.

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