It is still a common practice for high-asset families to sometimes have one spouse stay home or only work part-time as a way to provide domestic services for the household. Although commonly associated with the work of child care and child-rearing, a stay-at-home spouse can also be someone whose primary function includes cleaning, cooking or improving the home in which a couple lives without children.
While all of that unpaid labor can mean substantial economic benefit for the family as a whole, it can also put the spouse who isn’t working in a difficult position if the marriage begins to falter. Knowing your rights as an unmarried spouse can help you feel safer and more confident as you consider the end of your marriage.
If you ask for alimony or spousal maintenance, the courts may award it
Alimony or spousal maintenance involves ongoing payment by one spouse with income or substantial assets to the other, who may have been financially dependent during the marriage or at the time of the divorce. Alimony is not automatic, which means you have to request it. In most cases, it is a temporary benefit until you secure work experience or education in order to support yourself.
Seeking alimony can be very beneficial, especially if you have been out of the workforce for some time. Having some amount of financial support as you attempt to establish your own household and secure a job will make it easier for you to transition to independence.
However, if you are close to or past the age of retirement, if you have serious medical issues, if you have been married for decades or if you have custody of a child with disabilities that will require ongoing care, the courts may choose to order permanent alimony instead of temporary alimony that only lasts until you can support yourself.
You have a right to a share of the assets even if you didn’t pay for them
Staying at home to support the family through your unpaid labor may not directly result in the acquisition of assets for the household, but it does allow your spouse to focus more on their career while also limiting expenses that would drastically alter their budget without your help.
Cooking, child care, housework and many other forms of unpaid labor can cost hundreds of dollars a week if you pay professionals to do the same work. In other words, that unpaid work that you did for the family had financial benefits that allowed for the accumulation of assets and wealth.
The courts will absolutely consider your unpaid contributions to the household and the duration of your marriage among other factors when they decide how to split your assets. Additionally, your diminished earning potential can also influence the way that they divide assets, and the courts can allocate additional assets to you or debts to your ex to ameliorate the financial discrepancy between you.