Divorce and stay-at-home parents

The decision to become a stay-at-home parent is a big one for many couples, and often a very good one for the family. What a couple gives up in income is often made up in savings on day care costs, more time with children, a more kept-up household, and so on. For a spouse who takes on this role, however, there is also a risk if the marriage fails.

In the event of divorce, stay-at-home parents–whether it be the father or the mother that takes on this role–may be at a disadvantage in the event of divorce. This disadvantage is often because the parent has been out of the workplace for some time and has not stayed competitive. Unfortunately, family court judges are not always understanding of the decision to stay at home and give up a career, and this can lead to less than satisfactory spousal support awards.

One means of protection for stay-at-home parents is to do what is possible to maintain professional contacts during one’s time at home. This could means working part-time or possibly starting a business from home within one’s means. However it looks, this can be an important way for a stay-at-home parent to ensure they are able to enter back into the marketplace after a divorce.

Another way spouses can protect themselves is to execute a marital agreement. For couples who know in advance that one spouse will eventually be aiming to take on the role of a stay-at-home parent, setting down a premarital agreement regarding spousal support can be an important protection from financial stress in divorce. A marital agreement could also contain other provisions, such as a requirement to support the spouse in pursuing education to ease back into the job market on a competitive basis.

Couples who are consider a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement should both work with separate attorneys to ensure their interests are adequately protected.

Source: Forbes, “Deciding To Become A Stay-At-Home Mom? Consider This Cautionary Tale,” Jeff Landers, May 29, 2014.

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