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Study looks at property division for stay-at-home mothers

When people in New Hampshire get a divorce, their property is supposed to be divided equitably. Equitable division is the standard in most states. A study conducted by Vanderbilt University researchers examined how men and women interpret "equitable" when it comes to divorce and stay-at-home mothers.

Around 10 percent of American mothers whose level of education is at least a master's degree stay home with their children, and more than 25 percent of all mothers do. This is compared to just 7 percent of fathers. For the study, researchers created a scenario in which a couple was married for 17 years before the husband filed for divorce. Once they had children, five years into the marriage, the mother stayed at home to raise them. The participants were given six variations on the educational level, property and profession of each spouse and were told to divide property.

Women tended to give more assets to the mother, and their decision to do so did not take into account such elements as education and occupation. In contrast, men gave varying amounts to the mother and tended to award more in the scenario that gave her a higher educational achievement. Both men and women acknowledged that both spouses' contributions had value, but men rated the contributions of the breadwinner more highly. Women did the same for the mother's contributions.

Some couples may be able to negotiate a divorce agreement instead of going to court. However, they should make sure they make the right financial choices. Mothers who have custody may want to keep the family home, but they should make sure they can afford the mortgage along with taxes, upkeep and other costs. They may be better off financially if they take a portion of a more liquid asset, such as a savings account, or sell the home.

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