Choosing to stay home to care for your children can be a very rewarding decision. Instead of handing your children over to a childcare professional for at least a third of the day every day, you get to be there to witness all of their special moments as they grow and develop. You also have the opportunity to create a strong parental bond that can benefit your children for the rest of their lives.
From a household perspective, having one parent stay home can often be beneficial. While you lose out on the income that spouse would have earned, the potential cost of outsourcing services like childcare, housework and cooking might be far more than what you would make at work.
Although the household as a whole benefits from you staying home, you may find yourself in a precarious position if you decide you want to divorce your spouse after leaving the workforce. There are three special considerations that you need to focus on before you go any further with the process.
You may be able to secure spousal support, also known as alimony
When you decided to stay home to raise your children, your spouse and your family as a whole benefited. Your spouse could focus more on their career and had the ability to seek advancement in part because of the support you offered. The household likely saved quite a bit of money thanks to your willingness to stay home and perform unpaid domestic labor.
During those years that you stayed home, you missed out on networking and job growth opportunities. Whether you have a degree or a professional background, leaving the workforce can make it hard for you to secure a good job again. Your earning potential will likely have gone down or at the very least stayed stagnant through the years of your marriage.
Spousal support, also called alimony or spousal maintenance, is a way to provide for yourself and your kids until you have the ability to command a living wage. Typically, spousal support is a temporary financial aid that will last long enough for you to secure your own housing and begin training or educational efforts to improve your income in the future.
Even though you stayed at home, you may wind up sharing custody
Quite a few parents mistakenly assume that because they stayed in the house and served as the primary caregiver for the children that the courts will automatically grant them full custody in the divorce. However, the courts are more likely to split custody between you and your ex in most cases, regardless of how much time you spent with the kids.
The Washington courts want to make decisions that are in the best interest of the children. It is standard procedure to try to preserve both parental relationships instead of favoring one over the other. Shared custody typically means a reduced child support obligation, but it also means that you will have the opportunity for socialization or personal enrichment when your ex has the kids.
Staying home from work could affect how the courts divide your assets
Unless you have an ironclad prenuptial agreement or agree to terms for an uncontested divorce filing, the Washington family courts will have to look at your household situation and determine the best way to split up your community property possessions and debts.
One of the factors the courts will consider is the earning potential of each spouse. Because you currently have diminished earning potential, the courts may allocate more assets or fewer debts to you to reflect that.
Protecting yourself when you choose to leave a marriage requires careful consideration, particularly if you are in the financially vulnerable position of having stayed at home for many years without working. Still, with careful planning and good advocacy, you can secure a positive divorce outcome that will allow you your independence in the future.