Stay-at-home parents may be especially vulnerable during divorce proceedings. These mothers - and a smaller but growing number of fathers - either don't work at all outside the home or have lower-paying, usually part-time jobs that allow them to focus primarily on their kids. Because they rely on the income of the breadwinning spouse, they may find themselves more financially vulnerable following a divorce.
If you're in the position of a stay-at-home parent facing divorce, some of the questions you should answer with the assistance of an expert divorce lawyer are the following:
What bank accounts do I have access to? You need to take a full accounting of what you have at the start of the proceedings; do you hold only joint accounts with your spouse, or do you also have your own money?
What alimony payments would I receive? Alimony is an important source of support for stay-at-home parents, particularly as it's more difficult to find a good job after leaving the workforce entirely. Keep in mind that in Massachusetts, there are limits to the amount of alimony your ex-spouse is obligated to pay. After changes made in 2011 to alimony laws, ex-spouses will stop paying alimony when they reach retirement age; additionally, there are other time limits based on the length of the marriage. If your ex-spouse gets remarried, the additional income brought by their new spouse won't figure into the alimony calculations; in the meantime, if you even cohabitate with someone, your alimony could be reduced or done away with altogether.
How much would the kids receive in child support? The courts prioritize the welfare of children, but if you think your ex-spouse will be derelict about paying, you need to plan for ensuring that the payments keep arriving in a timely manner to the kids.
What's going on with my finances? If you've been leaving financial matters for your spouse to handle, now's the time to really sit down and acquaint yourself with what's going on. What assets belong to you, and which do you hold jointly with your spouse? What insurance policies do you share with your spouse that would be affected by the divorce? Do you have any debts, jointly or separately?
What changes will I need to make to my life? You may suddenly find yourself without a residence, or needing to get a job. Figure out what changes you need to make to your life, including rearranging your schedule, getting your own car, and filing taxes on your own.
All of these questions could be overwhelming to consider, but with the help of a good lawyer, you'll be able to sort through them and come up with solutions that are best for your kids and for yourself. Contact us to discuss the many considerations you need to make as a stay-at-home parent going through a divorce.