What happens to a stay-at-home parent in a divorce?

Overall, the Texas Family Code does not favor the stay-at-home parent.  Texas does not have alimony, and it can be quite difficult to obtain spousal maintenance.  (For a discussion on spousal maintenance, check out this post.)  A stay-at-home parent may be able to obtain some temporary support while the case is pending, but it can be difficult to obtain support beyond that.  The bottom line is that a stay-at-home parent cannot usually expect to receive any monthly support beyond child support once a divorce is final.

The good news is that the marital community property will be split 50/50, so even if one parent brought in all of the money during the marriage, the stay-at-home parent is entitled to half.  This includes not only cash but also equity in the home, the working parent’s retirement accounts, etc.  I often recommend that my clients meet with a certified divorce financial analyst to figure out the best way to split property, especially when the divorce involves a stay-at-home parent.  That parent may need more liquid assets, whereas the other parent would prefer to keep retirement accounts or the equity in the home intact.  The certified divorce financial analyst can explain how long the assets will last and how best to handle them to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Where stay-at-home parents can really get into trouble is when the couple has not done a good job of saving.  One spouse may be bringing in a sizeable paycheck, but if they have freely spent it, the stay-at-home parent is in big trouble.  Unless the marital estate is really large, a stay-at-home parent can expect to have to start working immediately upon divorce (if not sooner).  More often than not, stay-at-home parents are forced to leave the home behind, as he or she cannot afford the mortgage payments on his or her own.  The parties may agree to sell the house, splitting the equity, or the parent who can afford the home can pay the other parent half of the equity.  An experienced family law attorney can help a stay-at-home parent figure out the best options for moving forward in and after a divorce.



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