Divorce and the Stay-at-home Mom: Your Financial Rights

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Although we are not a family law firm, a number of our clients are recently divorced. Divorce can do a number on anyone’s finances for a variety of reasons, and many divorcees eventually file for bankruptcy in order to get a fresh start.

Today, let’s take a step back from bankruptcy and take a look at how to get through the divorce process itself. If both spouses are wage earners who then move into separate residences, the financial burden on each person suddenly becomes much higher than it was while supporting only one household with two incomes.

Even more challenging is the experience of the stay-at-home mom who has heretofore relied on the income of her spouse. Naturally, the stay-at-home mom (or dad) is, by definition, not employed outside of the home and therefore has no income of her own.

What rights does a stay-at-home mom have during a divorce?

When a couple makes the collective decision for one parent to stay home to raise children rather than work a traditional “job” with a paycheck, the stay-at-home parent becomes entitled to part of the working spouse’s income. Giving up years of work experience and potential earnings to care for the couple’s kids is worth something if and when the marriage fails.

Although a parent who has been out of the work force for many years may need to explore employment once the divorce is final, this will not happen during the lead up to divorce. The working spouse will be required to continue paying all of the household expenses throughout the duration of the divorce negotiations.

Non-working parents can also petition the court for temporary spousal support before the divorce is final. This money is paid by the wage earning spouse so that the stay-at-home parent can afford food and basic necessities.

Once your divorce case reaches the court system, many financial decisions must be made regarding child support, alimony, equitable distribution, the marital home, joint debts and more. During this time, a judge will determine if the stay-at-home parent is “employable,” and if so, what her earning potential is.

If the stay-at-home parent has never been employed and has always been dependent on her spouse’s income, alimony is likely to be granted. This is especially true if the unemployed parent has no college degree and zero work skills.

A stay-at-home mom with a college degree may still receive alimony along with child support, but the amount of alimony awarded will likely be lower because her degree gives her potential to find a decent paying job.

If you are currently a stay-at-home mom who is facing divorce, know that you will not be left on your own with no money to support yourself and your children. Dedicating a number of years of your life to raising your children is an important decision that you and your husband likely made together. Regardless of who filed for divorce, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that there are laws in place to ensure that you’ll be able to pay your bills.

Been all the way through a divorce and are now looking to improve your overall financial outlook? Filing for bankruptcy post-divorce is often a good decision. To learn more about whether bankruptcy is right for you, shoot us a quick message. We’ll consult with you free of charge.

 

Image credit: The Hidden Collection

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