SAHM and Divorce
Stay at Home Moms (SAHM) might have one of the most important jobs in the world. Most people don’t dispute the work is hard, the pay is low (for the hours worked) and the “work benefits” of this full-time job are slim. This life choice can be rewarding for a SAHM but is seldom rewarded in divorce court. Here is a story we hear often in the practice of family law. Two people meet, fall in love, and get married. Both are college educated and are working in professional jobs. Young and without other obligations they climb the work ladder. The married couple reaps the benefits of having two incomes – at this point in their career, the wife might even be making more money. They enjoy life, travel, eat out most nights, and put money away in their separate 401Ks. They have a name for this carefree phase of life, DINK (Dual Income No Kids). Then comes a baby, or maybe two or three children. At some point, the parents decide, with the rising costs of daycare and the desire to raise their children themselves, that one parent should stay home. Though there are around 1.75 million SAHD (Stay at Home Dads) in America it is usually the mom that pulls back at work and becomes the primary caregiver staying at home with the kids. This works well for a while until it doesn’t. Being the sole breadwinner, Dad carries a lot on his shoulders. He sees women at work “balancing it all” with families and high paying jobs. He wonders why he is carrying all the load. Pressures mount, kids act like kids and parents drift apart. Divorce enters the picture. Once supportive father confesses that he never wanted wife to quit “real job” and stay at home with the kids in the first place. Or maybe he just doesn’t remember how they got to that decision originally. Now SAHM and husband are going through a divorce. She wants to continue to live the way she has become accustomed too. Mom wants to be able to pick the kids up from school, help them with their homework and not worry about a paycheck. In other words, keep the job she was doing before. Unfortunately, family court judges are not always sympathetic to the SAHM plight. The legal system doesn’t usually consider SAHM a full-time job and a judge usually does not reward spousal maintenance to educated women who chooses not to earn a living. So it is time to get back to the workforce. Since she hasn’t had her toe in the water for a while, most likely the job won’t be as good as the one she originally walked away from to stay at home with the kids. The pay will probably be lower. It is going to be a lifestyle change.
So what is the best way to protect yourself as a SAHM?
Here is some advice to help moms protect their financial future, keep your food in the workforce. The unfortunate truth is 50% of couples get divorced. Most likely if that happens a SAHM will have to go back to work. It is a good idea to keep your skills up to date, keep up contacts and continue to do part-time or freelance work. Another idea is to get a postnup agreement, a legal document that sets up your benefits if you get divorced that you sign after you are married. You’ve probably heard of a prenuptial agreement, a document drawn up prior to a marriage that determines how to divide the property, child and spousal support and how the debt will be handled if there is a divorce. A post nuptial agreement serves the same purpose but it is signed after the marriage has already occurred. A postnup is a complicated legal issue that you should discuss with a family lawyer. Michael Puhl of Puhl Law Group, P.C. is a board certified family law lawyer. He was recently selected to the Texas Super Lawyers list in 2016. Call 972-569-3166 for an appointment and learn more about the divorce process.