Being a stay at home parent is a challenging, never ending task that requires exceptional organizational skills, significant emotional labor, and deep wells of compassion. Many families with minor children choose to have one parent remain at home to save money on child care or to homeschool their children. However, in the event of a divorce, being a single parent without an independent source of income can be a frightening prospect.
The good news is that homemakers undergoing divorce are not without options. With careful planning and the right legal support, you can remain financially solvent throughout the proceedings. The guide below provides additional information about your options, and things to consider before beginning the divorce process.
Are you a stay-at-home parent facing the end of a marriage? Don’t go through it alone—the family lawyers at Graziano & Flynn are ready to support you through every stage of divorce negotiations. From alimony and child support to asset division, we have you covered.
How Being a Stay-at-Home Parent Affects Divorce
While there are some disadvantages to being a stay-at-home parent during a divorce, New Jersey is an equitable distribution state. That means each partner must present a detailed account of their financial status to help determine equitable alimony and child support payments. As a stay-at-home parent, you stand a fairly good chance of receiving significant financial spousal support from your ex-partner, at least for a limited time while you plan your new future.
Other concerns you may face include the question of child custody and whether you’ll need to get a job after the divorce is finalized. These questions are linked—you have a better chance of retaining custody of your children if you have a steady income. Additionally, the sooner you can create a plan and begin saving money, the more stable you’ll be during and after the divorce settlement.
Consider Your Options for Divorce
The biggest decision you’ll need to make regarding the dissolution of your marriage is whether to mediate the separation outside of court, or let it go to litigation so a judge can determine things like child support and spousal support payments.
Which option is best for you depends on your unique circumstances. Below is more information about each one.
Divorce proceedings usually go to court for litigation when the divorcing parties cannot agree to terms outside of court. Litigation allows each party to present their case to a judge with the support and advocacy of a legal team. The judge then determines things like equitable division of marital assets, how much alimony will be and how long it will be paid, child custody arrangements, and child or spousal support payments.
Though this option is more expensive and may take longer, it may be a better option if one parent refuses to settle, or if the divorce process is particularly contentious.
Divorce mediation allows ex-partners to negotiate a divorce settlement outside of court. This option is typically less expensive and lengthy than litigation, and all decisions are up to the divorcing parties.
During mediation, a neutral third party—usually an attorney—facilitates conversations between ex-partners. Each party’s legal team is also usually present to protect their client’s best interests. Though this option is often used during no fault divorce settlements, it can also be used to ease parental conflict during a fault divorce.
If you need divorce mediation in New Jersey, Graziano & Flynn can be there for you. We’ve helped hundreds of divorcing couples come to agreements outside of court, and we can help you, too.
Stay-at-Home Parents & Child Custody
Unless a stay-at-home parent has a serious mental or phsyical disability, there are few barriers to them getting primary custody of their children. In fact, the parent who did most of the caretaking tasks prior to the divorce is more likely to get primary residential custody than the working parent—especially if the working parent worked long hours, overnight shifts, or traveled frequently.
The stay-at-home parent may also receive primary legal custody of the children, since they were likely the one to make most of the health and safety decisions beforehand. This responsibility may be shared, however, as part of a shared custody arrangement.
Stay-at-Home Parents & Alimony
In the past, it was common for stay-at-home parents—who were almost exclusively mothers—to expect enjoy a secure financial future for themselves and their children via child support and spousal support payments. Today, that can still be the case, but it’s rarer.
There are many factors to consider when determining child support and alimony payments, including things stay-at-home parent may have set aside to remain at home—such as a promising career or educational opportunity. The more essential the stay-at-home parent is proven to be, the better their chances significant spousal support.
New Jersey divorce law states that the length of a person’s alimony depends on how long they were married. Stay-at-home parents in marriages lasting 20 years or more are likely to receive Open Duration, or permanent, financial support payments. Those in marriages lasting less than 20 years will receive alimony for the length of their marriage. For example, if you were married for 15 years, you can expect to receive alimony for that length of time.
How Stay-at-Home Parents Can Protect Themselves Financially
As soon as you know you’re getting divorced, begin setting aside money for legal fees and to support you and your children if you need to live separately from your ex-spouse. You can also collect a portfolio of important financial information such as tax returns, bank statements, and loan documentation to create an accurate picture of your financial situation during mediation or in court.
Other things to consider include consulting a financial advisor to set up a realistic budget and getting a job as soon as possible. These actions will not only help you financially, but prove that you can be a competent and conscientious single parent.
Planning For Your Future After Divorce
The time to begin thinking about your financial future after divorce is before negotiations are settled. Begin planning for your new financial status by creating a budget for living expenses so you know how much you can afford to spend on rent or a mortgage for a new home. Create a resume detailing your marketable skills, or refresh an old degree with a new certification to make job hunting easier.
You may also want to contact friends and family for temporary financial support or living arrangements so you can save up enough money to comfortably support yourself and your children later on.
The Family Law Attorneys at Graziano & Flynn Can Help
Have you recently begun the divorce process as a stay-at-home mom, dad, or nonbinary parent? You need a skilled, experienced, and compassionate family law team on your side. The family law attorneys at Graziano & Flynn can advise you on your legal rights as a stay-at-home parent, help you negotiate alimony and child support, and litigate if your case goes to court.
Divorce brings with it a host of emotional and logistical difficulties—let the legal team at Graziano & Flynn shoulder some of that burden. Contact us today to learn how we can help you fight for what’s yours.