How do I leave my marriage with no kids and no money?
If you’re a stay-at-home Mom who knows you need to leave your marriage, you may be facing a lot of stress and a lot of fear. This is especially true for the wives of wealthy husbands, who may fear that they will be outclassed legally and financially throughout the divorce.
Fortunately, most SAHMs will be eligible for maintenance payments. Here’s what you need to know.
Do stay-at-home moms get anything in a divorce?
Yes. In addition to spousal support, stay-at-home-moms are entitled to 50% of the marital assets. Those are any assets that were accumulated during the marriage itself.
This can get complex. There are points of contention, such as which property counts as marital property and which parts are exempt. The length of the marriage can also play a role. Nevertheless, with the help of a good high net worth divorce lawyer you can get a fair division of property including your fair share of pensions, yachts, second homes, time shares, investment portfolios, boats, stocks, retirement accounts, real estate investments, company shares, and more. Many of your spouse’s assets may well offer an income in their own right.
How can stay at home moms protect themselves financially during a divorce?
First, it is imperative that you obtain a formal separation agreement during your initial, one-year separation period while you’re waiting for the right to divorce. To do this, you will need help from a lawyer.
If you are seeking an immediate divorce due to adultery or spousal cruelty this does not apply, of course, but it will be relevant to the vast majority of the divorce cases we handle.
A formal separation agreement usually gets you an alimony payment, which is a temporary spousal support payment. It will also usually offer a temporary child support amount. This accomplishes several things: it keeps the lights on, it gives you an income to work with, and it will allow you to start your own bank account, which you should do immediately. Cancel any joint bank accounts or credit cards, and ask your lawyer how much you can or should withdraw from the joint bank account. That amount could be covered by your initial separation agreement, as well.
Second, gather all of the financial documents you can find. That’s every bank statement, investment account statement, title deed, bill, tax return, and business profit and loss you can locate. Do this early in the process as this will make it harder for your spouse to shut you out from this information or to hide assets.
Finally, it’s important for you to have realistic expectations about the divorce and what you can obtain. Ask your lawyer for a best case and worst case scenario, and worry about obtaining a fair spousal support settlement somewhere between those two scenarios. The harder you fight, the less well-off you’ll be financially in the end. Treat it as a business negotiation.
What are the legal grounds for spousal support?
Alberta judges have four goals when they award spousal support. Those are:
- To recognize the economic disadvantages for SAHMs who may be unable, at least temporarily, to support themselves after the marriage ends.
- To divide costs of caring for children over and above child support amounts.
- To lessen the financial hardship of the economically disadvantaged spouse.
- To encourage spouses, as much as is possible, to become self-sufficient within a reasonable period of time.
Judges may not consider the misconduct of either party when contemplating spousal support payments. Spousal support cannot be used to reward your good behavior or punish your spouse’s bad behavior.
How much spousal support is a stay-at-home mother entitled to?
Spousal support is always discretionary. Until and unless a case progresses to a divorce trial, it is fully negotiable. We can use the fact that a judge is likely to award you spousal support to help strengthen our negotiation position.
All together, the court must consider:
- The length of the marriage.
- The function each spouse performed, including your status as a stay-at-home-mom.
- Any order, agreement, or arrangement already in place, such as a prenuptial agreement, or your formal separation agreement.
- Whether either spouse has a legal obligation to support another person.
- If the paying spouse lives with someone else, how much that other person contributes to their household expenses.
- If the recipient spouse lives with someone else, how much that person contributes to their expenses.
Keep in mind if you remarry or move in with another partner it will often lower your support payments.
There are federal spousal support guidelines, with different amounts based on whether child support is being paid. There is no law which demands their use, but both parties will usually use those guidelines as a starting point for negotiations.
Is child support part of spousal support?
No, but child support amounts do factor into spousal support calculations. In addition, spousal support and child support payments are grouped together as “maintenance” payments for the purposes of enforcing your court orders after the divorce is complete.
How long will spousal support last?
The length of time spousal support will be paid is just as negotiable as the amount that will be paid. However, courts will generally use the following guidelines.
- Support is generally paid ½ years to one year for every year of marriage; a 16 year marriage could be paid for 8 to 16 years.
- If you were married for over 20 years, or if the judge can add the number of years you were married to your age and get a total greater than 65, then the courts will generally award indefinite support to the stay-at-home Mom.
- You cannot receive full spousal support payments and pension payments out of your spouse’s pension plan at the same time.
We will help you ensure that you receive support for a fair length of time, and a sufficient amount of time to meet your needs.
Why choose Merchant Law to handle your divorce?
The members of our family law team have decades of experience handling high net worth divorces. We have successfully protected the financial future of thousands of SAHM clients across Alberta.
We’re responsive, empathetic, and ready to listen. We also have an extensive background in real estate law and business law, which means we can tap into sophisticated financial solutions that may help you and your ex get to a workable settlement faster and more amicably, which saves you money.
Call (403) 225-7777 to schedule your first appointment today.