FAQs About Divorcing When You Are a Stay-at-Home Parent or Spouse

Divorce can be challenging for anyone, but stay-at-home parents and spouses may face unique concerns. Without your own income, the divorce process can be filled with uncertainty, especially if you are worried that you will not be able to access the financial resources you need to secure legal representation.

Here at the Law Office of Tzvi Y. Hagler, P.C., we have helped many stay-at-home spouses and parents through the divorce process. In this blog, we offer helpful answers to commonly asked questions about this process when one spouse manages the home and the other has a traditional job outside the home.

How Will Our Shared Assets Be Divided?

New York operates under an equitable distribution model regarding the division of assets during a divorce. This means that the courts will divide property with an eye toward fairness rather than an automatic 50/50 split.

Equitable distribution in a nutshell:

  • Assets will be divided in a manner the court considers fair, not necessarily equally.
  • Several factors, such as the duration of the marriage and each spouse's income, are considered.

In a marriage where one spouse works outside the home and the other manages household duties and childcare, equitable distribution considers contributions beyond financial earnings. The courts recognize the value of managing a home and raising children as significant, non-economic contributions to the family's welfare.

They also factor in what the stay-at-home spouse may have sacrificed, such as their career or professional development, to support the other spouse's career. This holistic approach aims to achieve a fair division of shared property, acknowledging the diverse ways each party contributes to the marriage.

Will I Get Spousal Support?

Spousal support, often referred to as alimony, isn't guaranteed. It depends on many factors, including the financial disparity between partners and the duration of the marriage. New York courts also consider a spouse's need for support and the other's ability to pay.

In New York, there are three kinds of spousal support:

  • Temporary
  • Durational
  • Permanent

Other important factors include the stay-at-home parent or spouse's ability to become self-supporting, as well as the potential need for training or education. Courts also consider whether one spouse’s earning capacity is inhibited due to childcare responsibilities.

Will I Get Custody of the Kids?

One of our most frequent inquiries involves whether the courts prioritize the stay-at-home parent in custody decisions. It's crucial to understand that this isn't a cut-and-dry situation. In determining custody, the courts focus on what serves the child's best interests, which includes assessing both parents' ability to care for their children and provide a safe, stable environment.

Depending on the family's unique circumstances, this may lead to various custody arrangements, from equal 50/50 shared custody to arrangements where children spend more time with one parent if that arrangement better serves the child's needs and promotes their well-being.

Custody decisions are based on the best interests of the children, and a variety of factors could influence this determination, such as:

  • Who was the primary caregiver during the marriage,
  • Each parent's living situation post-divorce, and
  • The child's needs and routine.

How Do I Pay for Legal Representation?

Divorce is a complex legal process, and hiring legal representation is highly recommended. This is particularly important for stay-at-home spouses who may not be familiar with their legal rights.

If you are in this situation, you might be worried about how you will pay for an attorney, especially if you believe that your spouse is withholding assets you should otherwise have access to.

In these cases, the non-earning spouse may request the court to compel the earning spouse to cover their legal fees. This request is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, considering the financial circumstances of both parties and the working spouse's capacity to afford legal expenses.

The Law Office of Tzvi Y. Hagler, P.C., understands how stressful divorce is and how hard it can be on stay-at-home parents and spouses. Please reach out to us to discuss your specific situation and explore your options.