Many unhappy women who do not work outside of the home stay in bad marriages because they are afraid of the financial consequences of a divorce. Some stay-at-home moms find themselves on the receiving end of a shocking demand for a divorce.
The financial impact of divorce on women is real. But no one should feel trapped in a marriage that is detrimental to their well-being.
At Charles R. Ullman & Associates in Raleigh, NC, we understand the challenges a stay-at-home mom faces as she considers divorce. Divorce is not only emotionally difficult, it is a complex process. We have the knowledge and experience to help you make forward-looking decisions with your future in mind. We will work to protect your financial interests and help you take the steps needed to start a new life.
How Does A Stay-At-Home Mom Get A Divorce?
Understandably, money is a concern for most stay-at-home mothers contemplating a divorce. Even when a spouse provides support during separation, the family’s income is suddenly stretched thin by having to keep two households going.
A stay-at-home mom who anticipates having trouble making ends meet on her own may not be able to fathom the thought of attorneys’ fees. While you are not required to have a lawyer to obtain a no-fault divorce in North Carolina. But your rights can easily be trampled if you think you just want out and don’t negotiate a separation agreement that outlines each spouse’s financial responsibilities.
For example, all marital property (assets and debts accumulated during the marriage) must be divided equitably between the spouses for a judge to approve your divorce. But asset division in a divorce can easily become unfair in ways a judge won’t detect if you’re inattentive.
There are alternatives to DIY divorce that protect your rights and are quicker and less expensive than a litigated divorce, including:
- Collaborative divorce. A collaborative divorce is an approach to dispute resolution in which lawyers and other professionals work to create a framework of discussions in which couples informally work through specific areas of disagreement in a non-confrontational manner.
- Mediation. In mediation, a neutral third party works with the divorcing couple to find areas of agreement. The mediator guides a constructive discussion toward the resolution of issues necessary for a separation agreement but does not make decisions for the couple. Arrangements that come out of mediation, if signed by all parties, can lead to binding separation agreements.
- Arbitration. A trained arbitrator hears from both spouses and their respective attorneys and then makes decisions about the issues at hand. The parties are expected to abide by the decision, although in some cases an arbitration agreement may be appealed. Many couples have found arbitration to be a valuable cost-saving alternative when collaboration or mediation has not yielded results.
Attorney Charles R. Ullman is a certified family law specialist with considerable experience in collaborative divorce, mediation, and arbitration. Because our law firm focuses solely on family law, we can help you find a way to resolve the issues of your divorce with as little acrimony and cost as possible.
Stay-At-Home Moms and Alimony in a Divorce
A stay-at-home mom who was financially dependent on their spouse during the marriage is likely to be awarded spousal support, or alimony, as a term of divorce in North Carolina. Payments are usually monthly, but sometimes the court will order a lump-sum payment.
When decided by the court, alimony may be based on such factors as:
- Current and potential income
- Each spouse’s educational background
- Each spouse’s earning potential and history
- Standard of living during the marriage
- Current expenses and needs.
It is important to protect your legal rights and needs when spousal support is calculated, whether your divorce is negotiated or litigated in court.
Before agreeing to an alimony payment, you need to consider whether you will remain a stay-at-home after the divorce. You may be considering going back to school so you can re-enter the workforce, for example. Your ex-spouse may be ordered to assist with the cost of your tuition, fees, and supplies while you get the skills to return to work. Conversely, if your children are young, it may be several years before a return to work is possible. You may need a court order for lengthy or permanent spousal support.
As financial circumstances change after a divorce, either spouse may petition the court to have support payments modified. This includes the right of the spouse making alimony payments to ask the court to reduce or end their obligation. An experienced spousal support lawyer can counter a premature or unwarranted request to cancel support payments.
Stay-At-Home Moms and Child Custody in a Divorce
It is quite likely that a stay-at-home mother who has been the primary caregiver for the couple’s children during the marriage will be awarded some form of child custody and child support payments in a divorce.
A stay-at-home mom would likely assume physical custody of the couple’s children and the ex-spouse would receive visitation rights. It is possible for one parent to assume sole legal custody, meaning they will have the right to make decisions about the child’s education, religious training, and medical issues, or the parents may share joint legal custody.
If a divorcing couple can settle their child custody arrangements before going to court, the court needs only to review and approve a parenting agreement or consent order. To gain approval, a custody arrangement must address a family’s present and future needs and ensure that both parents are able to maintain a meaningful and consistent relationship with their child.
If child custody is contested, each spouse’s lawyer will argue for their client’s desires, and the court will consider those arguments, as well as:
- Each parent’s economic situation and earning potential.
- Each parent’s availability to the child.
- Each parent’s physical, mental, emotional, moral, and spiritual well-being.
- Each parent’s caretaking ability.
- Each parent’s home environment.
- The child’s bonding with other siblings.
- The child’s preference.
A child’s parents can voluntarily agree to the amount of money each of them will contribute to their child’s upkeep. If they sign a child support agreement that the judge approves, it becomes an enforceable court order. If the parents have not settled the issue when they go to court, a Family Law judge will calculate child support payments by applying the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines.
If your ex-spouse fails to meet their court-ordered child support obligations, a family law attorney at Charles Ullman & Associates can take action on your behalf. The court has a number of options to address a parent’s failure to pay child support, including garnishing wages or sentencing the delinquent parent to jail, depending on the circumstances.
Child custody and child support arrangements are always subject to being modified by petitioning the court. Charles R. Ullman & Associates can help you initiate or fight such a request.
Contact an Experienced North Carolina Divorce Attorney
It’s important to work with an experienced North Carolina divorce lawyer if you are a stay-at-home mom facing the dissolution of your marriage. A divorce order that does not provide you with proper legal protection could cause you lasting financial harm and affect your relationship with your children.
The Raleigh divorce lawyers of Charles R. Ullman & Associates know the rights and protections that are built into our state’s divorce laws and understand the needs of non-working parents who are facing single parenthood.
We are compassionate attorneys who are dedicated to helping you work through the issues in divorce that concern the needs of the parents and their children. Call us today or use our online contact form. We can provide you with a confidential consultation.