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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 a divorce.

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: Resources.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Helpful Family Law Resources

Family law can be complex, but there are plenty of resources available to assist you. Browse through the various resources our team provides to help simplify your legal process in every way possible.

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