Divorce Lawyers for Stay-at-Home Parents
Getting divorced is a highly stressful and emotional proceeding even under the best of circumstances. For a stay-at-home parent, however, it can be downright scary. If you have dedicated yourself to becoming a homemaker and raising the kids, it means you have no earned income, no paycheck, and probably far less control over the household finances.
In some cases, the spouse who is working uses the fact that they earn all the income as leverage to exert power in the relationship, and living with this dynamic for an extended period of time can make a stay-at-home spouse feel powerless. If you are in this situation and suddenly facing a divorce, you might feel trapped and wondering what to do next.
Should you get a job? Should you move out of the marital home? And what about your kids? It is not their fault that you and your spouse are splitting up, so why should they have to suffer by moving out of the house they have grown up in? There is a lot of uncertainty, and there are a lot of questions to consider. And you may not know where to turn for the right answers.
At the Cate Law Firm, P.A., we understand what you are facing, and we are here to help. Our practice is focused exclusively on family legal matters in South Carolina, and we have made it the mission of our firm to provide strong legal guidance and moral support to those who are going through the trying circumstances of divorce.
If you are a stay-at-home parent who is facing a divorce, the first thing you must understand is that, no matter what your spouse has told you or society has implied, your contribution to the marriage is just as valuable as your spouse’s. Accordingly, you have a legal right to an equitable share of the marital property, and your children have the right to receive the financial support they need to maintain a standard of living similar to what they are used to. There is also a possibility you have the right to spousal support, depending on your specific situation.
Your first step should be to get in touch with a knowledgeable and compassionate South Carolina divorce attorney to discuss your case and become informed of your legal rights and options. You may think you cannot afford a lawyer, but in cases involving divorce and stay-at-home parents, the dependent spouse is often entitled to have the other spouse reimburse at least a portion of their attorney fees. To find out more, we invite you to call our Spartanburg, SC office today at (864) 585-4226 for a personalized consultation with one of our attorneys.
Common Issues with Divorces and Stay-At-Home Parents
When there is a divorce involving a dependent spouse who is a homemaker, this will have a profound impact on the terms and conditions of the divorce decree. Some areas where having a stay-at-home parent may affect the outcome of the proceeding include:
South Carolina has no presumption favoring either the mother or the father in a child custody case. There is, however, a general presumption that awarding primary physical custody to the primary caretaker is usually what is best for the children. If there is a stay-at-home parent, it is almost always that parent who assumes this role. Accordingly, there is usually a stronger likelihood that a stay-at-home mom or stay-at-home dad will be awarded primary physical custody of the children.
In South Carolina, child support is calculated using a complex formula that is based largely on the incomes of both parents, the number of children, and other factors. As mentioned previously, the goal is to achieve a more comparable standard of living for the children as when the couple was together. In a situation with a stay-at-home parent, the income of the sole breadwinner will be one of the primary determinants in deciding how much support will be awarded.
While it may make it more likely, being a stay-at-home parent does not automatically mean you will receive spousal support. Other factors will be considered as well, among the most important being the duration of the marriage, the age and health of the dependent spouse, and the ages of each child. For example, if the couple has been married for more than a decade and the dependent spouse has been out of the workforce for about that long, there is a good chance that support will be awarded at least for a certain length of time. But for shorter duration marriages, things are far less predictable, and there is a chance that if support is awarded at all, it will only be temporary.
Division of Property
South Carolina calls for a “fair and equitable” distribution of all marital property. In general, marital property is any property that was acquired during the marriage, some notable exceptions being gifts and inheritance. For stay-at-home parents, it is important to understand that it doesn’t matter if the money to purchase the assets that were acquired during the course of the marriage came solely from your spouse’s income.
For example, if your spouse was the sole breadwinner, he/she probably earned the money that was saved for the down payment on your house and made all of the mortgage payments thereafter. Even so, the home belongs to both of you, because as we touched on earlier, your contribution as a homemaker raising the kids is just as valuable as your spouse’s financial contribution.
You should also know that this applies to assets like 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts (IRAs) as well, even if they came from your spouse’s income during the marriage and are solely in their name. Generally, a non-earning spouse is entitled to half of a retirement account, at least for the portion of the account that was accumulated during the marriage.
What is the True Value of a Homemaker?
The value of a homemaker goes beyond just raising the kids and managing the household. In many cases, there are opportunity costs that need to be considered as well. Some spouses make major sacrifices for the career of the other. For example, they may have helped pay for their spouse’s higher education early in the marriage in order to help get them established.
They may have also forgone a potentially lucrative career of their own to be at home with the kids. What is the value of all those years being out of the workforce? Years of prime earning potential that you will never be able to get back. And how difficult will it be to reenter the workforce at an older age after being out for so long? Will you ever be able to earn what you could have earned had you gone straight into a career after college?
These are all important questions that need to be considered, and you will want a skilled advocate in your corner who is willing to raise these issues and make the strongest possible legal arguments on your behalf.
Contact Our Experienced Spartanburg, SC Divorce Attorneys
If you are a stay-at-home parent who is facing a divorce, you do not have to go through this situation alone. You have legal rights, and you have the right to an equitable share of the finances – based on your important contributions to the marriage. At the Cate Law Firm, we are here to advocate forcefully for your rights and interests, and for the best interests of your children.
Call us today at (864) 585-4226 to speak with a member of our legal team. You may also message us online or stop by our Spartanburg office in person at your convenience.