Brazil & Benske, LLC

A cautionary tale for stay-at-home spouses

It is a common story in Wisconsin. After deciding to start a family, the spouse who makes less money decides to stay home and take care of the kids, while the spouse making more money becomes the sole breadwinner. At first, this works seamlessly. One parent focuses on the money and the career, while the other focuses on family and home.

Over time, though the sole breadwinner continues to advance in their career, they feel burdened by the pressure to provide for a family. Meanwhile, the stay-at-home spouse begins to feel overwhelmed by parenthood and feels their working spouse does not spend enough time with the kids or help out enough at home.

This begins to drives a wedge between them and they decide to divorce. The stay-at-home spouse believes they will be rewarded for the sacrifices they made for the family with alimony, but then the court decides otherwise. How does this happen? And, what can the stay-at-home spouse do about it?

Forbes notes that courts in almost every state are reviewing their spousal support laws. This often leads to limitations on the length of time a spouse receives support, the amount received or both. Spousal support was first created with divorcing women in mind at a time when women did not have strong earning potentials, but this has changed. Women outnumber men in the classroom and while equal pay remains an ever-present issue, three-quarters of women participate in the workforce.

Forbes recommends a prenuptial agreement to ensure that in the case of a divorce, the stay-at-home spouse receives compensation for their sacrifices. If a couple misses this opportunity at the start of their marriage, then the stay-at-home spouse should consider requesting a post-nuptial agreement. This helps to detail what happens in the event of a divorce. Divorce may be the last thing a couple wants to prepare for when starting a family, but as the old cliché goes, “Better safe than sorry.”

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