At the start of the new millennium, approximately 23% of mothers did not work outside the home. This number has continued to rise, as more mothers have made the choice to stay at home with children. In addition, the number of women who return to work while their husbands or partners remain at home has also risen significantly in the past twenty years. Being a stay-at-home parent is an important job, and the parent is contributing to the marriage in an essential way. After being out of the work force and concentrating efforts on the home and the children, a divorce may present some special challenges for those parents who have been staying at home.
Spousal support is one issue that is often crucial to a stay at home parent during a divorce. Spousal support has many factors as to whether it will be awarded, in what amount, and for how long. Spousal support is generally not designed to support a spouse forever. Rather, the preference of the law is to help support the spouse in establishing a new life and bringing his or her earning capacity up. New Jersey law provides caps for duration of spousal support unless the couple has been married for at least twenty years. All of this means that a stay at home spouse should give serious thought to a career and whether additional schooling may be necessary to achieve those career goals. Spousal support will likely be of limited duration, so the stay-at-home spouse needs to decide how to support him or herself going forward.
Visiting a financial planner before making the leap into divorce may also assist a stay-at-home parent. Getting professional advice regarding how to move forward into a new life will often provide essential insight into how to plan the next step. While consulting with the financial planner, the role of division of marital assets should not be overlooked, including whether the stay-at-home parent can afford to stay in the house upon divorce. Each spouse is entitled to an equitable share of the marital property. This is true even if one spouse stayed at home with the parties’ children. The policy behind this is that even though the stay at home parent was not providing financial support for the family, he or she was supporting the family in other ways. The law wants to recognize a stay at home spouse’s contribution to the home and especially the children, and so will not penalize the spouse by giving him or her a smaller portion of the marital assets simply by virtue of the fact that he or she did not work outside of the home.Being a stay-at-home parent means that a divorce has a special set of challenges, and you need an experienced attorney to help navigate you through this difficult time. Call us today at (732) 529-6937 and we can talk about your case and how we can help you.