I’m a Single Mom and I’m Broke. Help!

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Single mothers. We have it tough. What do you do when you are suddenly single again and have more than one mouth to feed? Most first reactions I always received were; “well, why doesn’t the father pay?” People need to understand that all men are not good men. All fathers and not good fathers. The one I dealt with lied on his own tax returns to show he was broke, leaving me penniless and left to forge on my own. I did not have the money to fight him in a long and extremely expensive legal battle. So, what do we do in a tragic situation? There are many out there. First off, don’t panic. Hold your head high. You have to be the sane one. Your children look to you for answers, for guidance and for stability. The odds are that we will not be living in the lap of luxury, but there are ways to get by and get what you really need for you and your kids. Swallow your pride. Ask for help. That is what it is there for. No, I am not speaking of begging for money or doing anything above the law. There are programs out there designed to help us.

A week after my own separation, I found myself in a very long line, on Valentine’s Day, at my county’s department of social services. I was applying for food stamps. I swallowed my pride and it was worth it. I had not worked in 7 years. I had no home. I had moved my children and I in with my aging parents. I was on my own with little ones looking to me for all the answers. Their world rests on my shoulders. Food stamps, or EBT, is a program in the United States that offers money, given on a card, that looks and acts like a credit card. If you qualify, you will receive an allotted amount each month to help pay for food. This only covers food and the amount you receive is based on the number of children you have and your own income. You must recertify every 6 months. Which means, filling out paperwork and providing pay stubs to prove you are still eligible.

I did more research. I found a program called WIC: women, infants and children. It is a wonderful program available for pregnant mothers, infants and children through age 5. WIC will provide you with printed coupons, listing specific foods you will receive. You receive a book that lists brands that are covered. It is super specific, can be a pain, BUT; will provide you with: milk, bread, eggs, cereal, beans, tortillas, cheese, vegetables, and peanut butter. If your child is an infant it will provide formula and baby food. They teach breastfeeding skills and encourage it. They will tailor your coupons based on your needs. I can’t stress how wonderful this program has been for me. You will have to bring your child to their office. They check your child’s weight and height and iron levels. It’s just an all-around positive program.

The most important thing is: you will have to find a job. You just have to. There is no way around it. You must be pulling in income to receive government assistance. Even though many people say that it is a free handout: it is not. You must have income. Find a job. Do whatever you can. Part-time, full-time; what ever you can manage. After I received EBT and WIC, and I had started working part time (my parents helped with child care), I was able to find a low cost apartment for my small children and I to live. It was not fancy. It was old and in a less than desirable neighborhood. I didn’t care. It was mine. My own kitchen, my own place. I was doing it.

There are even more programs out there to help. Medicaid: insurance for children and single mothers. However, you must be well below the poverty level to receive adult medicaid for yourself. I did not qualify, but my children did. There are Section 8 housing options available to those who need a home and can’t afford it. There are programs available to single parents who need help paying for day care, and programs that help pay to heat your home. Keep trying. Do research! Look up your local county health department of social services and see what is available. If those from another country are reading this: research your own local programs, because they are out there! Government programs are overrun with people, and the employees are worked beyond belief. If you are denied, try again. There were instances where I was denied, then I applied once more only to be accepted. Keep your paperwork: pay-stubs, social security numbers etc. in one place so that you can be organized and ready if needed.

I would like to clear up a huge misconception most people have about government help. You must have a job to receive help. With no income, you will NOT receive help from the government. There is also no such thing anymore as welfare. That is a now defunct program and has been since the 1990’s. I hear people talk about it, make fun of it; and the truth is, it doesn’t even exist. It hurts my heart to hear people mock assistance. The truth is: they themselves have not lived through it and are extremely uneducated on the subject. There is a program called work first. I went to the 2 hour long presentation to receive information at my darkest hour. Work first is the only available program in our country that gives money to people of need. The stipulation is that you must be constantly searching for a job, provide proof; and the amount they give you is not worth the trouble. The max amount they will give is only about $200 a month.

I found myself suddenly single with toddlers to raise and feed on my own. I didn’t panic. I stayed calm and did research. I had to jump through many hoops to receive assistance. Paperwork, mailing forms, phone calls, emails, etc. They do not make it easy. It is hard work! Do not give up. I never ever thought I would be someone who needed help, but you know what?  Things change. You must adapt. Be strong, hold your head high. You can do it.

Facing a Child Custody Battle

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You and your once trusted partner have split or are in the process of divorcing. Maybe you or your spouse have threatened to “take the kids”. Tension is in the air, questions run through your head keeping you up at night. You can’t eat, you can’t sleep. You worry. That’s a huge understatement…. you worry more than you’ve ever worried before. I know fathers experience their own array of emotions and problems facing a custody battle… but this article is not for you. This is for all the moms out there who do it all for their precious kids everyday and do not want to have their lives stripped away because of poor planning.
What should you do when facing a custody battle? Document, document, document. Start right now. Even if your mediation or supposed court date is way into the future. Document everything. When In court, he said, she said….amounts to nothing. If you want to get your point across, you must have it in writing or photos. How? Well, the best way to start is to download an app on your phones that allows you to type in facts and photos. The one I used is called ‘day one app’ on iPhone. It is an app you can lock, and enter facts by each day and hour, and add pictures. Once you have compiled all of your info… the more the better… you can upload them into a PDF file and send to your attorney. This is how I won primary custody of my child. The father was not taking care of my child and I had to prove it. I kept a journal in day one for many months entering in times for pick-up, drop-off and I took pictures documenting any bruises or strange happenings.  The opposing attorney looked at my huge compilation of journal entries and photos when we went to court, and immediately caved. If you have nothing but empty claims about what the other parent did or didn’t do, you will not get very far in a courtroom.

Let’s say that the other parent is taking care of the kids just fine, but they are verbally abusive towards you or the kids and during drop off and pick up. Another helpful thing you can do is to record your conversations. I know it sounds shady, but this is serious and if you want to win, you must have proof. Most phones nowadays have a voice memo app already built into the phone. Use it. Turn it on right before you approach the other parent and have the phone on in your pocket to record any bad or abusive language. You can then save these files to your computer and send to your attorney.

The last aspect of documentation is a no brainer. Save all texts from the other parent. Save every single email. They may not ever be needed, but if the other parent is harassing you via text or email and you have it saved and present it in court, it can help your case.

Just being real here, I know so many these days going through this and I went through it myself. I’ve been to mediation. I’ve been to court. It’s the worst experience ever. However, if you are truly prepared with an arsenal of documentation, you can sleep much better at night knowing that you did all you could to get what you deserve. Primary custody means that you have the kids most of the time and the other parent has ample visitation. Joint custody means you split your time down the middle. It seems that the days are gone where Mom automatically gets full custody and Dad gets visitation. It is becoming much more common now to receive joint custody or shared custody. That doesn’t mean it’s for the best. The other parent has to prove that they can provide childcare while at work in order to receive joint. Joint custody is not the automatic norm and don’t let anyone try to make you believe it. With joint custody, you will NOT get very much child support. Look up a child support calculator in your state and enter in the info to provide an idea of what support will look like. Never go into a mediation or court date for child custody asking for joint custody. Terrible idea. You have to prove why you are the better parent and why you should be the primary caretaker. Your life will be on display. Anything bad about you will be dug up. Mudslinging at its’ finest. Have your documentation ready to fight back and win.

You will get through this. I promise. It feels like it will never end, but it will. Joint custody is not the end of the world, if that is how it ends up. It’s funny how life gives you only what you can handle. When you go through a custody battle, you have to find strength deep down inside that you never even knew you had. But it’s there. It’s in all of us. Being prepared is what will bring your best outcome. I wish you the greatest of luck.

Lawyer Up

You know it is over. Your spouse agrees and it seems like you may just get out of this marriage in a fair and cordial manner. Couples can split amicably. It happens. But if you are one of the millions of women out there who are about to embark on a nasty divorce; you have got to find a good attorney. It is a must. It may actually be the most important thing you do to ensure a fair end to your marriage.

How do you find a good attorney? How much will it cost? Who should I pick? The first thing you should do is ask around. If you have any divorced friends and you know their divorce was fair, just ask them who they used. If that is not possible, do a search online for local divorce attorneys and read their reviews. Remember, you must use an attorney that practices law in the county you live in with your spouse. Do not go into this blindly. Find several that could be a possibility and call them. Ask for their hourly rate, their retainer fee and if they have payment options available. A retainer fee is an amount you will have to pay upfront, before the attorney will do any work for you. That money will be held in trust and used until it runs out. And most likely, it is going to run out. Start saving money now.

So, you have narrowed it down to a few candidates, and now it is time to personally visit with the attorney, also called a consultation. You will have to pay for this consultation, so write out all important questions and concerns you have and bring that list with you to the consultation. Attorneys are famous for lavishing you with small talk, which makes the meeting longer…which leads to a higher bill. Keep it concise. Observe the attorney. Do you get a good feeling about him or her? Does the attorney seem concerned for you, or are they constantly checking their phone or checking their makeup? Be weary of the attorney who has grandiose ideas and throws out huge settlement ideas he or she is going to get for you. That is not sincere; that is a salesman. You want sane, sincere and serenity.

Attorneys see this everyday. They are swamped with people all over town trying to divorce and settle custody disputes. A lot of them see us as just another divorce case for their law practice. What happens during a divorce and its’ results, can have a serious adverse affect on your life for many years to come. Finding the right attorney is so important. Try your best to gauge the attorney and their sincerity. If you get an uneasy feeling about the attorney, pay the consult fee and leave. I have personally had four different attorneys in my home town, and only one actually came through for me and brought me justice. I just had a good feeling about her. Our first instincts are usually correct.  There are so many attorneys out there and it can be difficult to choose one. If you can afford it, I would strongly advise getting the attorney who may cost a little more (if you get a good vibe from them), especially if children are involved. These attorneys are more expensive for a reason. Do not take this lightly. Do not settle until you feel good about your choice. This is your life. Make sure you find an attorney you feel is worthy of defending what is most precious to you.

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Thinking About Divorce

Do you find yourself daydreaming about a better life sans spouse? Shiny and new and all of your dreams come true? (mostly because your spouse is no longer there) However you envision your split from your partner will go, just remember this; it will be different than you had thought. This can be good or bad, depending on your daydream of course, but false expectations can lead to serious letdowns and headaches.

Focus on what is truly important here. If you have children, put their needs first. Make a list of what you need to start a new life. Not want; need. What can you live with? What do you need and deserve? Do not let your spouse frighten you into not asking for what you truly need. My best advice is to never react out of anger. Give it some time. Think on it. Sleep on it. Because no matter what circumstances you are dealing with now, things will never be the same again after that petition is signed.

Maybe you got lucky and divorced your spouse, only to become an incredible co-parenting duo who have remained friends. If so, that is really wonderful. For those of us who were not so lucky, and are dealing with a difficult ex while trying to co parent and live on a serious budget…you have come to the right place. You are not alone. There are millions of us out there. Why is divorce a subject that makes people uncomfortable? It is all around us. So many of us dealing with divorce and all that comes with it, and so few coming together for love and support. Divorce is really hard. There I said it. It is really tough. There is life after divorce. Maybe it is not what you had imagined for yourself, but who is to say that is bad? Maybe life had an alternate and better plan for you and you took a detour. I have learned that one will never be happy if not able to truly be themselves. Do not change. Be better. Hugs

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