If you’re a stay-at-home mom considering divorce, you likely have a number of questions running through your head. How will you provide for your family? Will your spouse be required to pay spousal support? The answers you need can be found with a team of experienced, compassionate divorce lawyers for women. They’ll help relieve some of the weight you’re carrying around and provide guidance as you navigate this next chapter of life.
Questions to Ask Divorce Lawyers for Women: Are Stay-At-Home Moms Entitled to Money and Assets in a Divorce?
We have a lot to cover to adequately answer this question, so we’re going to dive right in. Ohio courts follow what’s known as an equitable distribution model when dividing assets and debts during a divorce. The court begins this process by presuming all of the marital property will be equally split between both spouses.
The judge will then consider a variety of factors (more on these momentarily) that may result in a balance shift from one spouse to the other. Keep in mind courts believe each spouse equally contributed to the marital income by working or taking care of the home and children. We can therefore assure you that during a divorce, stay-at-home moms are entitled to some monies and assets.
You Can Create an Agreement With Your Spouse
This simple fact is often overlooked in a divorce, but you have the first say in how you would like marital property to be divided. If you and your spouse can amicably create a separation agreement – a written document explaining to the court how you would like property to be divided – the two of you can generally control the divorce outcome.
A separation agreement helps ensure you receive what you each believe is fair. But if you and your spouse are beyond the point of working together, or certain assets remain in dispute, the court will need to step in and divide your property for you.
Factors Considered in Property Division
The court needs a starting point to fairly divide marital property. Hence, it will evaluate all of your combined assets and liabilities and then make a decision regarding an equitable split. Factors that will help influence the court’s decision include:
- Each spouse’s assets and liabilities
- The duration of the marriage
- The tax implications of property division to each spouse
- Any premarital agreement concerning property division
- The retirement benefits of each spouse
Most divorces require the division of real property, such as the family home, rental property, and jewelry. Intangible property must also be divided, with the most common examples including stock dividends, retirement benefits, and even debts.
The Matter of Debt
Ohio courts treat marital debts in the same manner as any other property. Before assigning debt, the judge will determine if it is to be characterized as marital or separate. The factors listed above will then help determine who should take responsibility for each liability.
Defining Marital Property
A few times already we’ve mentioned marital and separate property. This distinction weighs heavily in determining how the court will divide assets in a divorce. Essentially, the judge needs to know:
- The total assets owned by a couple
- What belongs to each spouse individually
- How much of each asset exists
In most instances, marital property includes all assets (tangible and intangible) acquired during the marriage. Again, examples include bank accounts, vehicles, and a home. Many spouses want to know who will get the house or if they’ll be allowed to keep their retirement benefits. Unfortunately, the answers to these questions are not straightforward, and each case is ruled on an individual basis.
The Concept of Separate Property
Separate property includes anything you owned prior to the marriage. It may also include inheritances, gifts, or personal injury awards you received during the marriage. In some instances, however, the court will regard separate property that generates an income as marital property.
Let’s say you owned a duplex before the marriage that either you or your spouse managed after your wedding. That rental income is likely to be classified as marital property because it was arguably the fruits of a spouse’s efforts. In contrast, if you owned an investment property prior to the marriage that increased in value after your vows because it’s located in a desirable neighborhood, that increase would likely remain your separate property.
Don’t Jeopardize Your Interest
It’s important to understand you can endanger your separate property interest by failing to disclose to the court information about all of your assets. You must also avoid any act that could harm the financial interests of the marriage.
To illustrate, you cannot transfer a vacation home title to your best friend ahead of the divorce to keep it out of the court’s division. This transfer would be considered fraudulent and might result in a decreased share of marital property or cost you your separate property altogether.
The Matter of Spousal Support
Many divorce lawyers for women are asked about spousal support. Ohio courts will evaluate your need for such support after completing the process of property division. You are, however, entitled to ask for temporary support at any point throughout the divorce proceedings.
Unlike child support that is calculated with a strict formula, spousal support in Ohio does not adhere to specific formulas. Instead, the court will consider a series of factors to decide the amount and duration of payments. Those factors to be equally reviewed include:
- The length of the marriage
- The couples’ combined incomes, including monies from rental properties or other business ventures
- Each spouse’s education
- Each spouse’s age and health
- Each spouse’s assets and debts, including court-ordered payments
- The standard of living during the marriage
The Implications of Staying at Home
In many divorces, consideration is given to the stay-at-home mom who spent years caring for the family and has a decreased earning ability as a result. The amount of time needed for you to acquire new skills to return to work will also be considered.
The court will likewise determine if you staying at home helped your spouse obtain specialized training, a professional degree, or increased income during the marriage. The law grants the court broad discretion in awarding spousal support. This means the judge will decide the final (if any) award.
Deciding Next Steps
After speaking to divorce lawyers for women, your next step should be to gather all of your financial documents. Include bank statements, insurance policies, and investment accounts. This paperwork will help your attorney understand your recent financial quality of life and ensure the divorce does not prevent you and your children from moving forward.
You will also need access to money so you can pay for legal representation during the divorce. Likewise, take the time to sit down and craft a realistic budget to identify the money spent each month on clothing, utility bills, food, and your mortgage. You can then understand what is necessary to continue supporting you and your family. You should also:
- Have the marital home appraised in case it becomes necessary to sell
- Understand your credit score
- Update your resume to reflect your organization, time management, and listening skills
- Consider a flexible work-from-home opportunity
- Request temporary alimony (as described above)
A divorce can be stressful, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Being a stay-at-home mom does not preclude you from the fair division of marital and separate property. The courts will consider your contributions to the marriage as equal to your spouse’s and make decisions that reflect the best interests of your family. For more information, contact Woodford Sathappan McGee today.