Unfortunately for many stay-at-home mothers, guaranteed alimony seems to be becoming a thing of the past.
Forbes contributor Emma Johnson discusses the downward trend of stay-at-home mothers “automatically” receiving spousal support after divorce in “Stay-at-Home Mom Facing Divorce? Don’t Expect Alimony.”
“Nearly every state is revisiting its laws on alimony—or “maintenance”—in divorce cases, and the trend is universal: more limits on length of support, and standardization on sums doled out,” Johnson writes. “And in many cases, maintenance is denied altogether, even for women who have not worked for decades.”
Women made up the vast majority (97 percent, to be exact) of those receiving alimony in 2010. However, women now outpace men when it comes to college education and professional degrees, and approximately three-quarters of women work, according to data from the Labor Department. With these statistics in mind, courts have begun to look less favorably on stay-at-home mothers’ requests for spousal support after divorce.
“One on one, [staying at home] was a marital decision, but on the other hand, the marriage is over,” says Morghan Richardson, a family attorney in New York, in the Forbes piece. “There is little sympathy for women who quit their jobs to stay home from the courts, particularly when the magistrate is a woman who has worked her way up as a lawyer—most likely having to put her own children in daycare to earn a seat on the bench.”
However, none of this is to say that stay-at-home moms can’t receive alimony. The courts still take into consideration the financial disparity between the spouses, and certain judges will still choose to award spousal support. Courts are increasingly choosing to award “rehabilitative spousal support,” which is awarded for a short period to allow a spouse to obtain job training, further education, or more job experience on the path to becoming self-sufficient. Rehabilitative alimony is also awarded to mothers of young children so the mother can stay home with the children until they reach school age. Rehabilitative support is typically set for a fixed period of time, such as two years. (Depending on the circumstances of your divorce, you and your ex-spouse can agree on a timeline or the timeline can be determined by the court.)
Again, it is important to keep in mind that this trend is not universal. Many stay-at-home mothers are still able to receive alimony, and it simply depends on your unique situation.
“There are exceptions to this trend — as there should be,” Johnson writes. “When one spouse is at a severe financial disadvantage and the marriage was long, temporary maintenance is usually granted (the thrust of most alimony reform phases alimony out, based on the age of each party and duration of the marriage) to help one party get back on their feet financially. Another exception is when one party dropped out of the workforce to care for a severely disabled child who will require care long after the marriage ends and the child ages out of mandated child support — and beyond what a healthy child would require.”
If you have questions about spousal support as a stay-at-home mother, contact an experienced Rancho Cucamonga family law attorney for more information.