Vulnerable Stay-at-Home Spouses Facing Divorce

Some tips and information for the stay-at-home spouse facing a divorce.

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If you're a stay-at-home spouse who relies heavily on your partner's income, a divorce may put you in an especially vulnerable position.  Stay-at-home spouses may be unemployed or may work part-time, primarily from home, at a lower paying job.  In many cases, they stay at home to take care of children. 

Though it's the wife who does this most of the time, there's also a small but increasing percentage of dads who stay at home with their kids; the Census Bureau estimates that about 3.5% of stay-at-home parents are fathers, and that may be an underestimate.

As a stay-at-home spouse, you'll need to ensure that your financial dependence and vulnerability don't harm you during the divorce process and afterwards.  Take stock of your situation and consider the following issues.

Marriage Finances and Assets

As a stay-at-home spouse, you may have been less involved in the marriage's finances and the state of the assets.  It's important that you review the titles to different assets like the house and car.  Does everything legally belong to your spouse? What might you need to borrow from other people (such as a car to get around)? What kinds of accounts do you have, on your own or jointly with your spouse? Has your spouse established any accounts separately? When the other spouse is a primary breadwinner, they may open a bank account of their own and deposit their income into it, leaving you out in the cold.  Another important matter to look into is if your spouse is hobbled by debts you didn't know about.

Insurance and Taxes

What will you do when your spouse's health insurance is no longer available to you? What about something like auto insurance? You'll have to carefully consider the current policies and anticipate how they'll change following a divorce.  Furthermore, you'll need to start paying taxes on your own.  If your spouse used to handle the tax returns, you'll have to quickly learn how to file them correctly and take advantage of any tax breaks that may save you money.

Basic Needs

You may need to look for new housing and find other ways to pay for immediate basic expenses; some people temporarily move in with relatives or friends, though this isn't an option for everyone.  You may also find yourself looking for a job, perhaps for the first time in years; finding a job is especially difficult if you've been out of the workforce for a while or if you have young kids to take care of.  Alimony and child support can help of course, but in some states, including Florida, lawmakers are pushing for reforms to alimony that limit the amount a spouse may receive and puts a cap on the number of years alimony can be paid out.

Contacting an experienced divorce attorney will give you some peace of mind as you sort through these issues.  An attorney will be able to advise you on how to handle various situations, minimize your vulnerability, and fight for a fair outcome in the divorce process.

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