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Dear Amy,

I am a 22 year-old male. My mother, who is 60 years old, has been married to my father for over 35 years. I have three brothers, two of which have left home. I am presently in the process of becoming financially independent, and my younger brother is still at home. My mother has voiced much anger against my father and claims that she stayed married because of the children. Now that we are all adults, she feels she wants to leave him, but she doesn't know how. She doesn't have a job, she's not sure what her rights are as a wife, and she can't receive Social Security because her full-time job was as a housewife. My father is an extremely stingy man, and was physically abusive to her for several years.

My mother is not very educated, and I feel she doesn't know where to go for help in this matter. Is it possible for a woman with no financial means to sue her husband and divorce him? What can she do? What can my brothers and I do?

Thank you,


Dear Willard,

The NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund has prepared some excellent information on how to prepare for a divorce. It is really designed for people just like your mother. It tells you what to prepare ahead of time, what to expect, and what questions you need to ask. I would recommend that you get her some of these materials as a starting place. Then she will need to get a lawyer, but I think that she should be better informed about her situation before she takes it to that level.

From what you have said, your mother seems to be in a pretty good situation. They have been married such a long time, and judges usually recognize this and recognize that her earning potential has collapsed, while his has likely soared. Therefore, judges are likely to award her a payment that will allow her to keep her basic standard of living. However, some judges certainly aren't as understanding. The NOW guide will certainly give you more insight into this. Good luck to you and to your mother. I'm sure she appreciates your help.

- Amy


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