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I Am a Stay at Home Mom Getting Divorced. Will My Husband Be Forced to Support Me?

This is a common question that is posed to attorneys and likely to judges as well. It used to be that a stay at home mom getting divorced was told by her lawyer "do not go get a job, let's force this guy to pay you maintenance (alimony) and support you for the rest of your life". Well, times have changed.

When a lawyer goes into court and requests a judge order maintenance be paid to a non-working spouse, the judge is going to have some questions:

  1. How long is the marriage? The longer you have been married, the more likely you will get maintenance. Been married 2 years? Pretty likely the answer will be no. 30 years? You have a much better shot.  
  2. Are the kids young? Until kids can go off to school, judges often will find that a mom is justified in staying home with the kids. But as soon as the last one starts kindergarten, this argument will fail. If you are working and your kids are in school you will have costs for summer child care and possibly after school care, but those costs are included in child support.   
  3. What is your educational level? If you have a college degree, it is assumed that you can get a job of some kind, and that you can make more than minimum wage.  
  4. What is your age and health? Judges may be less likely to make someone enter the workforce when they are in their late 50's. If you have health issues that would keep you from working, you likely would not be forced to go out and get a job.  
  5. What is your spouse's income? A judge needs to look at your husband's income to see if there is enough money there for him to be able to pay maintenance. If he is already going to pay child support, it is possible that he will not be able to support 2 households and you may have to find employment to add some money into the equation.

In this day and age, when there seem to be more jobs than people to fill them, judges feel that everyone should be able to be employed if they want to. Often a person that says they cannot work will be forced to undergo a vocational evaluation, which is an evaluation by an "expert" in the employment field. This person will prepare a report and possibly testify as to what jobs you are qualified for and how much money you can make. I don't think I have ever seen one of these evaluations come to the conclusion that someone is unemployable or cannot earn any money.

Stay-at-home-mom.jpgIf you are just starting in the working world and not making much money, it is possible that your spouse may be ordered to pay you some amount of maintenance to supplement your income. The judge likely wants to see that you are working but also will know that it may take a while to get on your feet financially, which would warrant a maintenance order. It is likely this will not go on forever.

So, the answer to the "should I stay home and refuse to get a job" question for a stay at home mom getting divorced is very likely going to be NO. The sooner you can find employment, the sooner you can start down the road to financial independence, which will likely make your life much easier once your divorce is done.

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