Divorce Considerations for Stay-at-Home Parents

For many families, the thought of one spouse forgoing a career to stay home, care for the children, and maintain the home is a remnant of generations past. For others, however, such a situation may seem ideal—presuming, of course, that it was a mutually agreeable decision made by both spouses. While this type of scenario is much less common than it was a few decades ago, it is not terribly unusual in today’s world to come across a family in which the wife/mother—or the husband/father—is a stay-at-home parent and homemaker. But, what happens to that individual in divorce?

Many of the laws in Illinois regarding divorce and its associated concerns were originally drafted to help and protect stay-at-home spouses and parents when a marriage fell apart. To a large extent, these laws were a product of their times, when cultural norms generally expected a man to be working full-time and his wife to be at home with the children. Times, of course, have changed, for many reasons, including advancements in gender equality and economics. Far fewer families are able to live on a single income than was the case in the 1960s and ‘70s. In light of evolving family dynamics, the laws have also been updated throughout the years, providing specific considerations for parents and spouses who do not work outside the home.

Property Division

According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), a divorcing couple’s marital property must be divided equitably between the spouses. To determine what is equitable, the court must consider many factors, including the length of the marriage, the standard of living and each spouse’s financial situation. The law also requires the court to take into account the contributions made by each spouse to the marital estate and its value, including “the contributions of a spouse as a homemaker or to the family unit.” Without the efforts of a homemaker or stay-at-home parent, the earning spouse would likely not have the same opportunities for generating income.

Spousal Maintenance

Similarly, the IMDMA also offers consideration to a stay-at-home parent in regard to maintenance or spousal support. In addition to taking into account the stay-at-home spouse’s ability to become self-sufficient, the law also requires the court to consider the contributions he or she made during the marriage to the other spouse’s career and earning capacity. For example, if the wife dropped out of college to care for the children so that her husband could attend medical school, she has played a role in his ability to earn a living as a doctor.

The couple’s lifestyle during the marriage must also be considered, as a stay-at-home spouse has the right to expect a reasonable standard of living following a divorce. If a spouse, for example, enjoyed a relatively lavish lifestyle with a large home and other luxuries, it is unlikely that the court will relegate him or her to a life of poverty because he or she stayed home during the marriage.

Divorce Help in Will County

If you are a stay-at-home parent on the brink of divorce, it is important to understand how the process could affect your future. Contact an experienced Orland Park divorce attorney to discuss your situation today. Call 708-518-8200 for a free consultation at Kezy & Associates.