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What Stay-at-Home Parents Need to Know When Getting Divorced

 Posted on May 26, 2024 in Divorce

Elmhurt, IL divorce lawyerThere are many reasons why couples choose to get divorced, including disagreements over finances, conflicting parenting styles, or general incompatibility. While divorce can be difficult for anyone, stay-at-home parents are likely to face some unique concerns related to their finances, the custody of their children, and other issues. Understanding the best ways to address and resolve these issues is crucial, and an experienced attorney can provide invaluable guidance to ensure that the divorce process can be completed successfully.

At Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC, we provide effective legal representation for stay-at-home parents who are going through divorce. We can fully evaluate a couple’s situation and determine what steps need to be taken to ensure that a parent will have sufficient financial resources after ending the marriage, and we can also help address issues related to a couple’s children, ensuring that their ongoing needs will be met. We provide compassionate legal help while advocating on behalf of our clients to make sure they will be positioned for success after completing the divorce process.

Child Custody Issues

Child-related issues are likely to be among the most significant concerns that stay-at-home parents will face during a divorce. In Illinois, child custody is known as the allocation of parental responsibilities, and the issues are divided into two main categories: 

  • Decision-making responsibilities: These responsibilities cover major aspects of the child's life, including education, health care, extracurricular activities, and religious upbringing. The court can allocate these responsibilities jointly or solely to one parent. A stay-at-home parent may be given primary decision-making responsibility in certain areas, especially if they have been the primary caregiver and have a deeper understanding of the child's needs and routines. For example, a stay-at-home parent who has been managing the child's education and medical appointments might be given primary decision-making authority in those areas.

  • Parenting time: This refers to the time each parent spends with the children. In most cases, family courts will want to ensure that parenting time schedules will allow both parents to maintain meaningful relationships with their children while considering practicalities such as the child's school schedule and each parent's work commitments. For a stay-at-home parent, the court may recognize their role in providing daily care, and parenting time arrangements may be structured to reflect this. This might mean that the stay-at-home parent has more overnight stays during the school week, while children may stay with the other parent on weekends or during school breaks.

In every family law case involving children, the primary focus will be to determine what would be in the children’s best interests. Illinois courts may consider several factors when determining how to establish child custody arrangements that will provide for the best interests of children, including:

  • The wishes of each parent regarding parenting time and parental responsibilities. When parents disagree about how child custody issues should be handled, the court may seek to identify the areas of disagreement and find compromises, or a judge may determine that one parent’s wishes are more likely to provide for the children’s best interests.

  • The wishes of the child, if they are of sufficient age and maturity. Older children may have a say in how certain issues will be handled, including when they will live in each parent’s home.

  • The child's adjustment to their home, school, and community. Courts will usually want to minimize disruptions in children’s lives, so steps may be taken to preserve current child custody arrangements as much as possible.

  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved. The court will want to make sure parents have the capability to provide for their children’s needs.

  • The relationship between the child and each parent. Courts will work to preserve important parent/child relationships, ensuring that parents can continue providing similar levels of care for their children as they have in the past.

  • Each parent's willingness to encourage a positive relationship between the children and the other parent. Ongoing cooperation between parents is important for children’s well-being, and the court will want to make sure parents will act in ways that will allow for positive parent/child relationships.

Ideally, parents will be able to work together to create a parenting plan that serves their children's best interests. This will often involve joint decision-making, as well as schedules that allow one party to continue to be a stay-at-home parent while providing the other parent with sufficient parenting time.

Division of Marital Property

Financial concerns are another important issue for stay-at-home parents. A spouse who is a homemaker will want to make sure they will have the resources to maintain a stable household for their children and provide for their ongoing needs. Many of the key considerations will be related to the property a couple owns. A stay-at-home parent may wish to continue living in the family home, and will also need to make sure they can maintain ownership of the items needed to provide ongoing care for their children, such as furniture, children’s toys and clothing, the family car, and other forms of personal property.

In Illinois, all of the property acquired during a couple’s marriage is considered to be marital property that should be divided equitably between spouses during a divorce. It does not matter who purchased different items or whether one spouse earned the majority of the income used to make purchases. Each spouse should receive an equitable share of the assets, and the division does not necessarily need to be equal. Factors that may be considered when determining how to divide marital property include:

  • The contributions of each spouse to the acquisition or preservation of marital property. These may include contributions a spouse made as a homemaker, including household duties, childcare, and tutoring.

  • The economic circumstances of each spouse. A stay-at-home parent who does not work outside the home may receive a larger share of marital property to ensure that they will have sufficient resources to provide for their ongoing needs.

  • The needs of the custodial parent to maintain ownership or possession of the family home or other property.

These considerations ensure that the contributions of a stay-at-home parent are recognized during the division of marital property. Ideally, a couple will be able to negotiate a property settlement that will provide both parties with the assets they need going forward.

Spousal Support (Alimony)

Spousal maintenance is another crucial issue that a stay-at-home parent may need to address during a divorce. This form of financial support may be necessary to ensure that both spouses will be able to maintain their standard of living after their marriage ends. A spouse who does not work may receive payments from the other spouse that can be used to cover ongoing expenses. This is intended to allow them to continue providing care for the couple’s children while also taking steps to be able to find employment in the future, such as attending college classes or vocational training. 

Courts in Illinois will consider several factors when determining whether a spouse is entitled to spousal support, including the income each party currently earns and their ongoing needs. A person who has a diminished income or earning capacity because they have limited work experience due to a focus on family responsibilities is more likely to receive spousal support. The court may also consider whether a person made contributions to help their spouse further their career, such as supporting them while they were attending college or providing the majority of the care for the couple’s children.

Illinois law provides for several types of spousal support:

  • Temporary maintenance: This form of support may be awarded during divorce proceedings to help the lower-earning spouse address their needs until a final settlement is reached.

  • Fixed-term maintenance: Following a divorce, spousal support will typically be paid for a specific period. The amount of time that payments will continue will be based on the length of a couple’s marriage. 

  • Reviewable maintenance: In some cases, spousal support may be paid for a specified period, after which the court will review the parties’ circumstances to determine whether payments should continue, be modified, or terminated. This option may be used when a spouse will require support while attending college or taking steps to ensure that they can find employment and become self-supporting.

  • Permanent or indefinite maintenance: While this type of support is less common, it may be awarded in long-term marriages of 20 years or more or in cases where the receiving spouse is unlikely to become self-sufficient due to age, health, or other factors.

Child Support

The goal of child support is to maintain the standard of living the child would have had if the parents’ marriage had not ended. For a stay-at-home parent, child support is crucial to ensure that they can cover their children’s ongoing expenses. In Illinois family law cases, child support will be calculated using a formula based on the income earned by both parents. Each parent’s amount of parenting time is also a factor. 

Child support payments are intended to cover the child's basic needs, including:

  • Housing: Support may be used to pay rent or mortgage payments, utilities, and other housing-related costs.

  • Food and clothing: A parent may use child support to pay for groceries and ensure that new clothing can be purchased as children grow.

  • Medical care: Out-of-pocket costs for medications, medical supplies, or doctor visits will usually be covered by child support.

  • Transportation: Child support may be put toward car payments, fuel, and public transportation costs related to the child's needs.

Beyond children’s basic needs, there are additional expenses that may need to be addressed in a child support order:

  • Childcare: The costs associated with daycare or babysitting may be divided between parents if children need to receive care or supervision while a parent is working or pursuing an education.

  • Medical care: Parents will be required to maintain health insurance coverage for their children. They may divide the amount of monthly premiums, as well as other extraordinary medical expenses.

  • Educational costs: Parents may need to pay school fees, including enrollment fees or private school tuition. They may divide these costs, and both parents may also contribute to expenses related to school supplies or books.

  • Extracurricular activities: Fees for sports, music lessons, clubs, and other activities that contribute to the child's development and well-being may be divided between parents.

In most cases, child-related expenses will be divided proportionally between parents based on their respective incomes. A stay-at-home parent may need to take steps to ensure that they can receive ongoing payments that will allow them to provide for their children’s needs.

Contact Our DuPage County, IL Divorce Attorneys for Stay-at-Home Parents

While the divorce process can be challenging for stay-at-home parents, the skilled attorneys at Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC can provide the legal help needed to resolve a case successfully. Our Elmhurst divorce lawyers understand the unique concerns that parents face in these situations, and we are ready to advocate for our client’s interests and find solutions that will provide for children’s best interests. Contact us today at 312-605-4041 to schedule a consultation and get legal help with your divorce.

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