Pennsylvania Family Law and Divorce
Lisa Marie Vari & Associates, P.C.

Stay-at-home Parents and the Divorce Process

By: Lisa Vari on G+

Our Pittsburgh family lawyers know that being a stay-at-home mom (or dad) is a noble and important profession. Many married couples choose to have one working parent and one stay-at-home parent as a way to save on child care and to have one parent focus on raising the kids and establishing a strong emotional bond. Stay-at-home parents make an important contribution to the household, which the Courts will recognize during the divorce process.

When a couple divorces, it can become difficult for the stay-at-home parent to continue to live as they were. After being removed from the job market for the number of years required to raise the kids, it can be hard to jump back in and be able to support themselves and the family. Pennsylvania, like many other states, deals with this using spousal support, alimony pendente lite, and alimony after the divorce. Spousal support can be awarded prior to the divorce being filed, while alimony pendente lite is meant to allow both parties to be on equal footing while the divorce is being resolved. There are entitlement defenses to spousal support based on fault, but there are no defenses to APL, which is based on the respective income of the parties.

Alimony is the most important tool for support for a financially dependent spouse. A Court will look at various legally mandated factors to determine whether to award alimony and how much to award. Alimony is limited in Pennsylvania, and will usually end upon the dependent spouse's cohabitation with a new partner or remarriage. It may also be for a shorter duration to allow the stay at home parent to develop skills or go back to school. In some circumstances, it is possible for alimony to be awarded permanently, however Pennsylvania courts are usually reluctant to do that.

To avoid having to deal with problems later, it is a good idea for couples who are considering having one spouse stay at home to enter into a postnuptial agreement laying out property division and payments to the financially dependent spouse. That way, the spouse who is giving up independent financial security and possible career advancement will know that they will be provided for in the future, even in the event that the marriage falls apart. While you may be reluctant to sign an antenuptial agreement, just remember that planning is proactive and having that discussion will make sure that you and your spouse are communicating about all the essential details before taking such a large step.

If you are considering leaving the workforce to stay at home, contact our experienced team today to make sure that you are protected!

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