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The Stay-at-Home Parent and Divorce

St. Charles Divorce Lawyers

AdobeStock 150127296When an individual chooses to stay out of the workforce or take lower-paying or part-time work in order to focus on his or her children and household, the prospect of divorce can be terrifying. Opting out of the workforce is an act of surrendering one’s capability to provide for him- or herself to his or her spouse, which requires an immense level of trust.

In a divorce, both parties have the right to their marital property and time with their children. The only exception is extreme cases in which one parent is deemed to be harmful to the children and has his or her parental rights terminated. If you are a stay-at-home parent facing the prospect of divorce, take the time to learn about your rights and options for ensuring financial security during the divorce process and after the divorce is finalized.

Spousal Maintenance for Stay-at-Home Parents

An individual who sacrificed all or part of his or her capability to earn a living outside the home during his or her marriage may seek spousal maintenance, also known as alimony. This is money paid to prevent the receiver from suffering a financial hardship because of the divorce, and exists to help him or her continue to enjoy the standard of living that he or she enjoyed during the marriage.

An individual’s actions during the marriage, such as infidelity, do not impact his or her ability to receive spousal maintenance. Instead, the court considers numerous factors about the couple’s financial and personal lives, such as each party’s age and health, each party’s current income and assets, and each party’s future earning capacity to determine an appropriate spousal maintenance amount. Typically, spousal maintenance orders are not permanent. They are generally awarded for a fixed length of time, during which the receiving spouse is expected to complete an education or job training that would enable him or her to become self sufficient. In cases where the couple was married for decades and near retirement age or a significant disability prevents one partner from working, permanent maintenance may be awarded.

Temporary spousal maintenance awards may be put into place while a divorce is pending. This is replaced by a final order when the divorce is finalized. Spousal maintenance terminates when the receiving spouse remarries.

Considerations when Determining Parenting Time and Parental Responsibilities

When determining an appropriate parenting plan for a couple’s children, multiple factors are considered. Each parent’s income and assets is only one of these factors. Others include:

  • Your relationship with your children;
  • Your involvement in your children’s day-to-day lives;
  • Your age and health; and
  • Your children’s personal needs.

If the court determines that remaining in the marital home for the majority of their time is in the childrens' best interest, you may have grounds to keep the property in your divorce. If you are your children’s primary caregiver, you may receive child support from your former partner to help cover the costs of raising your children.

Other Issues for Stay-at-Home Parents to Consider During the Divorce Process

Regardless of your spousal maintenance order, you are expected to make a good faith effort to become employed and financially self sufficient. Your former spouse can modify your spousal maintenance order if there are significantly changed circumstances in your lifestyle or theirs that necessitate a modification or termination. For example, if you cohabitate with a new partner, your spousal maintenance order may be altered or terminated. Similarly, if you are deemed to be working “off the books” in order to continue receiving spousal maintenance, your order may be terminated.

Individuals who receive spousal maintenance must declare it on their taxes as a form of income. Those who pay spousal maintenance may write it off on their taxes.

Work With an Experienced Elgin Family Law Firm

If you are a stay-at-home parent going through the divorce process, your needs are different from those of working individuals. Contact our team of experienced Elgin divorce lawyers at Pucci Pirtle, LLC today to set up your initial consultation with our firm. We can review the specific details of your case, and determine the right course of action to help you navigate through the divorce process.

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