Many stay-at-home moms have dedicated much of their married life to caring for their children, husband, and their home. An enormous and complex life-changing challenge, but most will tell you worth every minute.
Now that your marriage ends, you have valid concerns over what happens next, especially if your kids are still young and need full-time care and don't want to place them in a childcare facility.
While you might want to return to work, it's been a long time since your last employment, or you could lack the education and skills to get a well-paying job to support your family, especially after a long-term marriage in California.
In other words, many divorced stay-at-home moms have been out of the workforce for many years. Unfortunately, this often means a divorce for a stay-at-home mother is more complicated and has some unique financial challenges.
Suppose the family has been financially dependent on the husband's income for years. The mother dedicated her life to their children and the overall well-being of household issues, a full-time job by itself. In that case, the emotional and financial challenges can seem overwhelming.
While as a stay-at-home mom, you've dedicated your life to caring for your kids and spouse.
Now in California, in the dissolution of marriage proceedings, you need to understand your legal rights moving forward to obtain a fair and equitable divorce settlement. Our Los Angeles family law attorneys will examine this topic in more detail below.
What About Child Custody Rights for Stay-at-Home Moms?
First, you need to know that just because you were a stay-at-home mother who spend the vast majority of the time with the kids, a California family law court will NOT automatically grant you primary child custody rights.
Of note, however, the fact that you stayed home to care for the kids will significantly improve your chances, especially in cases when the kids are young.
A further note is that you must understand that custody decisions are ALWAYS based on the children's best interests. It's not about you or your soon-to-be former spouse. Thus, here is some vital information about child custody issues:
- courts generally believe that children in a divorce do better when they remain in regular contact with both parents;
- you should not expect to be awarded sole child custody of your kids unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as drug or alcohol abuse;
- a history of domestic violence or abuse can impact custody orders;
- the age of the children is a significant factor in custody decisions.
Most court child custody arrangements in California are joint custody, such as a 50/50 split, but they will depend on the situation.
What About Child Support for a Stay-at-Home Mom?
If you are awarded child custody in a California divorce case, you will be eligible to receive child support payments, especially for stay-at-home moms.
This means the husband and father will be legally required to pay child support based on the California Child Support Guidelines, which considers the following:
- each parent's income;
- amount of time spent with the kids;
- childcare costs; and
- other relevant factors.
The family court judge uses a standard formula to determine the child support award amount.
What About Spousal Support?
Alimony is financial assistance from your ex-spouse to maintain the standard of living you were used to during your marriage. It's usually awarded in cases where the couple has a substantial earning disparity and has been married for at least ten years.
The amount will always depend on your ex-spouse's income and how much is reasonable for your basic needs. Most spousal support awards are temporary and only last until you can support yourself, but it's possible to receive long-term alimony.
This means getting an education or training to find employment and become financially independent. In addition, family law courts expect you to make a good-faith effort to find work while receiving alimony.
The court could deny any alimony request if you already have sufficient assets or property. Under California law, a spouse must become self-supporting after a reasonable time.
This is called a "Gavron Warning” and is based on Family Code 4330(b), which says, “When making an order for spousal support, the court could advise the recipient of support that they should make reasonable efforts to assist in providing for their support needs, taking into account the particular circumstances considered by the court pursuant to Section 4320, unless, in the case of a marriage of long duration as provided in Section 4336, the court decides the warning is inadvisable.”
Of note is that this statute does not mandate that a stay-at-home mother go out and find a job immediately. The court will consider all the circumstances. Recall that the kid's best interest is the top priority.
Why Should You Consult with a Divorce Lawyer?
Many stay-at-home moms have unique and complex challenges when getting a divorce.
You should contact an experienced family law attorney to go over the specific details of your case and the legal options.
Sometimes, a soon-to-be former spouse or lawyer might attempt to take advantage of the situation if you don't have qualified legal representation.
This is an emotional time, and you will need some support in making wise decisions. First, you must work out a mutual divorce settlement agreement with your spouse that includes the child support you are entitled to receive.
To protect your legal rights and your family's best interest, you should hire a skilled divorce lawyer that you can trust.
Our California Certified Family Law Specialists can protect the legal rights of stay-at-home mothers.
Furman & Zavatsky are Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys that provide legal representation across Southern California. Contact us by phone or use the contact form for a free case evaluation.