Spousal Maintenance: The Case of the Stay-at-Home Parent

Whether by necessity or by choice, two-income families are certainly becoming the norm in today’s American society. In some situations, both spouses work hard to balance full-time careers with family responsibilities. In others, one spouse may work full-time while the other picks up part-time jobs to make ends meet, while still tending to the needs of the family and, possibly, children. There is, however, still a significant percentage of families in which one spouse—and, in all honesty, it is usually the wife—is a homemaker or a stay-at-home parent. If you are a stay-at-home spouse, do you have any idea what you would do in the event of divorce? Many individuals in similar circumstances do not, so it is important to understand the options available under the law and, in particular, spousal maintenance.

Who Makes Spousal Maintenance Decisions?

The Illinois Marriage and Defense of Marriage Act contains the state’s provisions regarding spousal maintenance, or alimony, as it was once known. Upon filing for divorce, or in your response to your spouse’s petition, you can request that spousal support be considered—that is, if you and your spouse have not already reached an agreement of your own on the issue. It is up to the presiding judge to determine if maintenance is necessary or appropriate based upon a fairly long list of relevant factors. These generally include the length of the marriage, the income, resources, and needs of spouse, each spouse’s age and health, and the standard of living established during the marriage.

Relevant Factors for the Stay-at-Home Spouse

For a stay-at-home parent or homemaker, there are two statutory considerations that make spousal maintenance much more likely. According to the law, the court must consider:

  • The impact to your present or future ability to earn income due to your domestic duties, or “having foregone or delayed education, training, employment, or career opportunities due to the marriage;” and
  • Your contributions to your spouse’s career and income potential.

While it is extremely difficult to place a dollar value on either of these factors, the court must take into account how your role as a stay-at-home spouse or parent positively impacted the overall family situation. Additionally, the court must estimate your ability to become self-sufficient through education or employment, or whether such an expectation is even reasonable.

Responsible Legal Advice

If are a stay-at-home spouse facing the possibility of divorce, it is important to begin planning for the process now. Contact an experienced Orland Park family law attorney at Kezy & Associates today. We will meet with you to discuss your options and the best approach for your particular circumstances. Call 708-518-8200 to schedule your free consultation.