Spousal Maintenance and the Homemaker

Oct 20, 2022

As a part of my divorce practice, I have represented many homemakers.  Most of them are women; some have been men.

Regardless of the gender of the homemaker, one aspect has applied to them across the board.  Their roles are generally disrespected and diminished by their exes when it comes time to talk about the topic of spousal maintenance.

Suddenly, a spouse who has worked inside the home for 25 years raising children, cleaning toilets, grocery shopping, preparing meals, juggling the kids’ schedules and transportation needs, etc., etc., is expected by his/her ex to quickly become financially self-supporting.  Why?  To reduce (or preferably eliminate!) the financial need on the spouse working outside of the home.  The same spouse who, for 25 years, pursued a career, mostly unfettered and uncompromised, by the many demands of child-rearing and homemaking.

Most spouses who work outside of the home understand that they will have to share the assets acquired during the marriage.  Very few of them, however, can conceive of why they would ever have to share a portion of their future income, post-divorce, with their homemaking spouses.  It’s a weird case of “that was then, this is now,” as if the preceding years of homemaking did not much matter and could be quickly converted into income earning potential.

It probably comes as no surprise that there is still little respect associated with wiping bottoms, nurturing children, or any other responsibility that does not garner a paycheck.  What irony!  Not only are these important duties the most beneficial for the family, but without the efforts of the homemaker, the other spouse would have had to compromise work and/or income to facilitate them.

Fortunately, laws exist to protect homemakers from the (not so) good opinions of their exes.  Most states provide temporary spousal maintenance (sometimes known as alimony) to homemakers who can be retrained and re-enter the workforce in time, and permanent spousal maintenance to those homemakers who have stayed out of the workforce for decades, and who likely cannot become self-supporting in the future.  Regardless, maintenance aims to assist the homemaker’s financial need to the extent that the other spouse has the ability to pay.

So, if you are, or have been a homemaker, please consult with an attorney to determine your possible rights regarding spousal maintenance in the state in which you live.  And dial down the negative feedback you may be getting from your ex.