What to Expect in Divorce for the Stay-At-Home Parent
DISCLAIMER: The following is not meant to be legal advice. It offers alternatives,
tips, and resources for those with no means to hire an attorney. For a
more thorough understanding of the law regarding dissolution of marriage,
please examine the applicable Sections of the Family Code, the applicable
Rules of Court, and the Local Rules applicable to the jurisdiction where
your case is filed.
Because stay-at-home parents are particularly at-risk in a dissolution
proceeding, it is vital that they have clear understanding of the financial
difficulties that can emerge during the process. This article will provide
some steps that a stay-at-home parent should consider when going through
Step 1: Determine if You Qualify for a Summary Dissolution
An expedited divorce (more commonly known as a Summary Dissolution) is
a much cheaper method of obtaining a divorce. However, you will not qualify
for a summary dissolution if you have more than $25,000 in community property
assets, have been married longer than 5 years, have any real property
interests, have unpaid marital debts greater than $6,000, have separate
property assets worth more than $25,000, or have any minor children with
your current spouse. For a more in-depth discussion about summary dissolution
please visit our page discussing it at:
Step 2: Determine if You Have Sufficient Funds to Pay for Legal Representation
If you do not have money to pay for legal representation, some attorneys
may be willing to take your case if there are sufficient assets of the
marital estate which can ultimately be used to pay them. This not only
includes financial accounts, stocks, and investments, but also funds received
through the sale of the family home, or other community real property.
Additionally, some attorneys may be willing to utilize what is known as
a Family Law Attorney Real Property Lien (FLARPL). A FLARPL places a lien
on the family home, but only as to the community property interest of
the party seeking the FLARPL.
Attorneys may also be willing to take your case if your spouse makes a
significant amount of income, as spousal support, child support (if you
have minor children), and needs-based attorney’s fees awards may
be ordered, that in such a situation may be sufficient to meet your attorney’s
fees obligations. However, there is no guarantee that these awards will
cover all of your attorney’s fees, so you will need to act wisely
and prudently with respect to the fees you incur. It is important to remember
that attorney fees awards are not necessarily meant to pay for all of
your attorney’s fees. All the award is designed to do is make sure
that both parties have equal access to representation.
Step 3: Appreciate the Efforts of Your Attorney
It is important to appreciate that when coming in to retain an attorney
without sufficient funds to pay for their representation of you, that
attorney and their staff will be advancing their time and efforts until
they are able to secure an award to not only address your needs, but also
compensate the attorney, and the legal assistants/paralegals assisting
the attorney, for their time and efforts.
Thus, you must be sensitive to the fact that your case must be handled
in a timely and cost efficient matter. Further, your attorney will probably
bring, at the institution of your case, a motion for support and attorney’s fees.
Step 4: Brace Yourself for a Lifestyle Change
You will need to have a
realistic expectation as to how your standard of living will change now that you are getting
a divorce. Both your standard of living, and that of your spouse, will
decrease. The fact of the matter is that it is more expensive living apart
than living together. The income your family was living off prior to separation
now needs to be split between two households (i.e. two rent payments,
two car payments, two grocery bills, etc.).
Another drastic change occurs if you have minor children. A custody arrangement
will most likely be put in place determining how often you see your children.
It is important to understand that now that you and your spouse are living
apart, your children’s time will be divided between both households.
Step 5: Consider Finding Work to Supplement Your Support Award
Perhaps the majority of attorneys will also advise you, as an unemployed
homemaker, to not get employment in order to maximize your support award.
If your child is in school, and the cost of child care would be fairly
nominal to you, at The Buncher Law Corporation, we strongly advocate,
contrary to other attorneys, that you work on obtaining an independent
source of employment. There are several reasons why doing so is advantageous.
Among them are:
- Getting a job will not lower your effective gross income from all sources.
The court will not terminate your right to support, but will merely consider
your income in the total amount of support you receive. Your self-employment
income, plus your spousal support, will not be less than the spousal you
would have received had you been unemployed.
- If your spouse becomes injured, laid off, or experiences a decrease in
income, the support you receive will become decreased or eliminated as
well. Having your own source of income thus provides some protection.
- It is important to not be dependent on the antics of your spouse. In order
to alleviate yourself from being completely dependent on your spouse,
it is important to increase your autonomy by working on your career.
- While it may be frightening to get back into the job market, it cannot
be overstated how finding work can serve as an often welcome distraction
from the hardships of divorce. Additionally, by increasing your own self-reliance,
you empower yourself, and lessen your need to be dependent on anyone else.