Stay-at-home parents have to do a great deal of work. In addition to providing around-the-clock child care and managing household duties, these parents often make sacrifices for their families and put the needs of their children and their spouse ahead of their career and their goals. Unfortunately, this often means that a stay-at-home parent feels that they are at a disadvantage if their relationship with their spouse breaks down and the couple chooses to get a divorce.
Regardless of whether a person is currently working outside the home or has worked in the past, they should be able to maintain their standard of living during and after their divorce while continuing to provide for their children’s needs. By working with an experienced divorce attorney, a stay-at-home parent can make sure they are addressing their legal issues properly, protecting their rights and financial interests, and taking the correct steps to resolve disputes with their spouse.
Here is What Stay-at-Home Parents Should Know About Divorce and Financial Support
Child Custody and Child Support
For many stay-at-home parents, issues related to the custody of their children will be the most important matters to address during the divorce process. When determining how legal and physical custody of children will be handled, courts will look at what is in the children’s best interests, and a judge may evaluate a variety of factors.
Most of the time, courts believe that it is in children’s best interests for parents to have joint legal custody. This means that they will share the responsibility of making decisions about how their children will be raised, and these decisions will address issues such as education, medical care, and extracurricular activities. However, there may be some cases where sole legal custody will be awarded to a stay-at-home parent, such as when the other parent has not been very involved in children’s lives or wishes to leave these decisions up to the parent with whom the children will be living most of the time.
Physical custody, which addresses where children will live and when they will stay with each parent, can sometimes be more complicated to address. In many cases, a stay-at-home parent will want to continue serving in this role, and they will ask that the children live with them the majority of the time. When determining how visitation or parenting time will be allocated between the parents, a judge may consider each parent’s previous level of participation in providing childcare. Since a stay-at-home parent will most likely have been the one to provide the majority of the care, they may be able to continue to do so, but the children will usually be allowed to spend reasonable amounts of time with the other parent as well.
If children will continue to live primarily with a stay-at-home parent following the parents’ divorce, the other parent will usually be required to pay child support. Depending on the laws in the state where the parents live, this support may be based on the income earned by one or both parents, and it is meant to ensure that a parent will have the financial resources to fully provide for children’s basic needs (food, clothing, shelter, etc.). A child support order may also address other expenses, including medical insurance coverage for children, other healthcare costs, educational expenses, fees and equipment for extracurricular activities, and, if the stay-at-home parent will be pursuing employment, the costs of daycare or other forms of child care.
Property Division and Spousal Support
While matters that are not directly related to the couple’s children may seem to be less important for stay-at-home parents, these issues should be addressed properly to ensure that a person will have the means to support themselves following their divorce. Stay-at-home parents should be sure to understand that they have the right to a fair and equitable share of their marital property. The other spouse may believe that they deserve a larger portion of these assets since they were the primary income earner for the family. However, when determining how to divide marital assets, a court will usually look at all of the contributions the spouses made to the family and the marriage, including household duties and responsibilities. By receiving a fair share of the couple’s money and property, a stay-at-home parent can ensure that they will have what they need to live comfortably once their divorce is complete.
A stay-at-home parent may also be eligible to receive spousal support. This form of financial support is meant to ensure that spouses can maintain their standard of living following their divorce. If a person is not currently working outside the home, they can receive ongoing payments from the other spouse to help them meet their ongoing needs. The amount of time these payments will last will usually be based on how long a couple was married. In some cases, spousal support may also be used to help a stay-at-home parent pursue education or other forms of job training that will allow them to support themselves once they return to work.
Contact a Divorce Attorney to Address Legal Issues as a Stay-at-Home Parent
Parents who have remained at home to ensure that they can care for their children will usually want to continue doing so after they get divorced. This means that they will need to make sure the decisions made during their divorce will address child custody properly, while also providing them with the necessary financial support. A qualified divorce and child custody lawyer can help stay-at-home parents negotiate a divorce settlement that will meet their needs, ensuring that they can continue being the parent that their children need and deserve.