There are many changes that result in the lives of individuals after divorce. One of the more obvious is the transition to a one-income household. The financial hardship that can occur may have some surprising consequences, particularly for the children involved.
The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) defines poverty as the inability “to achieve the minimum decent standard of living” that permits a person to fully participate in mainstream society. Nationally, 42% of children in general live below the poverty level. In New Mexico, this figure is 52% according to the NCCP. These statistics include all children, regardless of whether or not they have been affected by divorce.
Yet, children of divorce have been specifically identified as a group more likely to live below the poverty level, according to a recent study released by the U.S. Census Bureau. In New Mexico, 53% of children living in poverty reside with just one parent.
Data shows that women head up most one parent homes. Further statistics reveal that women generally have less income earning potential. One possibility for this may be that prior to divorce, many women focus on raising children, rather than on developing job skills or furthering their education. Many times, divorced mothers just do not have the work experience or credentials needed to get good paying jobs.
Additionally, the continued care of children may prevent a divorced mother from accepting certain jobs. Jobs that require flexibility and travel are just not a possibility for women who have the sole responsibility of raising and supervising children. If child care is necessary, the expense can drain money away from other household necessities.
And, a divorced woman‘s support network may not be what it once was, as ties to in-laws or other family members and friends may have become strained due to the divorce. This can result in social isolation that keeps divorced mothers from being able to share burdens and responsibilities with others.
Not only are a child‘s basic material needs potentially compromised after divorce, but studies show that poverty can delay cognitive development and hamper a child‘s ability to learn. Worry over having one‘s basic needs met may impact the ability to focus and concentrate. Further, poverty can lead to emotional, behavioral and social problems among children of divorce.
Though the economic realities of divorce cannot be completely averted, there are ways to minimize the financial risks and strains of divorce. In addition to the terms of the divorce, marital settlement agreement and parenting plan which should be designed to insure the financial well-being of the children, there are also state resources available for high risk families and children.
If you are considering divorce, an experienced family law attorney can help to navigate the divorce process as well as the state programs available to avoid falling into a the downward spiral that poverty often brings with it, both for the parents and the children. In the event that you cannot afford an attorney which is very likely the case in these situations, there are a number of programs that provide free legal advice to low income, high risk families facing divorce.