Spousal Maintenance & Custody for Stay-at-home Parents

In News by YKF Law

Only some people work a 9-5, going into an office five days a week, while others work different shifts or stay home with their children and work inside the home. The national percentage of families with a stay-at-home parent is just over 2%, an increase from 1.5% since COVID.

Most stay-at-home parents begin staying home after their first child is born, while one parent works outside the home for financial reasons. The parent who stays home may continue to do so while their children grow and flourish or may opt to work outside the home after a few years.

But what happens if the marriage doesn’t work out and ends in divorce? Does the stay-at-home parent need to work outside their home? Does the parent who initially worked outside the house need to support their former spouse completely? Continue reading to learn about spousal maintenance and custody for stay-at-home parents.

Soupsal Maintenance For Stay-at-home Parents

Hollywood and even books often portray divorces and spousal maintenance as a lose-win, with one parent gaining sole custody and a large amount of spousal maintenance, living a lavish life while the other parent is left with nothing. Of course, that’s made up for dramatics. So how does spousal maintenance legally work for stay-at-home parents?

Spousal maintenance isn’t meant to punish the parent who worked outside of the home, having them continuously pay to support their former spouse. Rather, it’s used to provide a lifestyle similar to that from when they were married. So, the parent who stayed at home would receive spousal maintenance (if the court deems it necessary) that will provide a lifestyle similar to the one they had when they were still married.

There is no set rule for spousal maintenance, and every case is unique. Spousal maintenance is also gender-neutral, so it doesn’t matter the gender of the stay-at-home or working parent when the courts determine it. There are also different types of maintenance: temporary, short-term/periodic, or long-term/permanent. Long-term/permanent spousal maintenance is rarely awarded in Missouri courts, reserved for health concerns or disabilities.

Most often, short-term spousal maintenance is awarded to the stay-at-home parent, with the judge requiring the parent to work outside the home to become financially independent soon after the divorce. If the court determines the stay-at-home parent can work outside the home, they’ll often grant them enough time to be supported by the working spouse to either go to school or receive the training needed to get a job and support themselves.

Custody/Child Support for Stay-at-home Parents

The court always has the best interest of the child or children in mind when determining child custody and child support. Many stay-at-home parents worry they won’t be given child custody due to their employment status. Child custody is not determined by your employment status. Rather, the court grants child custody based on many other factors like how to fit the parent is, the mental and physical health of the parents, the child’s needs, etc.

It’s also important to note that the spouse who works outside the home won’t be granted less child custody just because they work outside the home. The stay-at-home parent will most likely need to find employment after a divorce is finalized, especially if they were granted temporary spousal maintenance. Being a stay-at-home parent won’t affect your parental rights of child custody. Rather, you most likely won’t be able to continue to be a stay-at-home parent for the long term.

Child support is determined by the courts using the working parent’s salary and the expenses of raising the child. Things like daycare, extracurricular activities, and housing, among others, are used to determine how much child support the working parent will need to pay the stay-at-home parent when the children are within their care. There is a specific calculation Missouri courts use to determine child support: Form No. 14 Child Support Amount Calculation Worksheet. This worksheet is a guide, and the courts may require the working parent to pay more or less depending on their unique circumstances.

It’s important to note that child support differs from spousal maintenance; child support is for the child or children, while spousal maintenance is for the spouse. If the stay-at-home parent was awarded some form of physical custody, then child support will be awarded to financially support the shared child or children of the working parent and the stay-at-home parent. Child support may be modified, otherwise known as a Motion to Modify Child Support.

Being a stay-at-home parent can affect spousal maintenance, but it doesn’t lessen the chance for you to be granted physical custody. If you are going through a divorce or want to modify child support or custody, The Law Office of Young, Kuhl & Frick, LLC can help. We have over five decades of combined legal experience, helping families in and around Kansas City.

We’re dedicated to the practice of family law and can help guide you through any family law matter, keeping your best interests in mind. Our team is skilled in negotiation and litigation, handling family law matters from the most complex to the most straightforward.

Our office is located in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. In addition to our physical location, our firm’s family and divorce attorneys have practiced in Jackson, Clay, Cass, Lafayette, and Platte County, Missouri. Contact our family law firm today to schedule a consultation – we can meet in person or via Zoom.