Merrell Law Firm, LLC
205-874-9697

As a stay-at-home spouse, you have property rights in a divorce

Not that long ago, women were almost always the ones who stayed home to take care of the family home or young children. However, the modern economy is much more diverse than the economy even a few decades ago, and many women are making great wages that allow them to support a family.

Whether you are a stay-at-home mother or father, you have rights under Alabama law. In the event that your marriage starts to falter or you decide you want to divorce, you need to educate yourself about your rights, as they will play an important role in your financial stability immediately after you file for divorce.

You may have the right to seek spousal maintenance until you can support yourself

One of the biggest issues for stay-at-home spouses is the lack of employment during the marriage and how that can impact their earning potential. Most businesses look unfavorably at long gaps in work experience. If you have been out of the workforce for more than a few months, you may need to reduce your expectations for the position you can hold or the wages you can command.

It can be nearly impossible to support yourself on entry-level wages, to say nothing of the additional costs if there are children you need to support as well. Thankfully, when you file for divorce, Alabama does allow you to seek spousal maintenance, also known as alimony. Spousal maintenance payments will vary in amount and duration depending on your family circumstances.

If your marriage lasted decades and your spouse is already enjoying their retirement, you may have grounds for permanent maintenance received as a portion of the retirement or pension benefits. If you have been married a shorter time or you are young enough to re-enter the workforce, it is more likely that the courts will order temporary maintenance to help you cover costs until you can secure the education or experience you need to command a living wage.

You have a right to share the assets even if you didn't earn money

Asset division can feel confusing for those who didn't work or earn much during their marriage. If your spouse was the primary earner for your family, chances are good that their income represents the majority of your household income and that the assets you own were often purchased with their earned income.

However, just because one spouse earns more doesn't mean they have the sole right to retain the assets acquired during the marriage. Each spouse contributes to the household. The unpaid work you did at home -- whether you raised children or cleaned, cooked and maintained the property -- allowed your ex the ability to pursue their career and arguably save the household hundreds if not thousands of dollars every month. That means that you have an interest in the marital assets.

When the courts attempt to equitably distribute your marital estate, they will look at not just who earned what but also unpaid contributions to the household and your future earning potential in their attempt to determine what is fair and reasonable. They can even factor in spousal wrongdoing in divorces for cause, which isn't always allowed in other states.

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The Merrell Law Firm, LLC 101 Riverchase Parkway East Hoover, AL 35244 Phone: 205-874-9697 Fax: 205-453-7184 Hoover Law Office Map

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