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What do stay-at-home mothers deserve in a divorce?

When a couple decides to divorce, they will have to divide their property equally. However, a 50/50 split is not always “equal.” Many factors can determine how property should be distributed when a marriage ends.

Equitable division can be important for stay-at-home mothers who either never worked or left work to care for the family. While they may not be adding to the family’s wealth via an income, their contributions still matter.

Comparing contributions

A recent study asked participants to review help determine asset division for a divorcing couple. The scenario involved a husband, wife and their three children, and the wife left work to raise them. The husband filed for divorce after 17 years of marriage.

Women participants were more likely to determine that the wife should receive a larger share of the property, regardless of any study variations – such as the spouses’ education or occupation. However, men were only more likely to give the wife a more significant share if she had a higher education.

Most participants believed the husband’s financial contributions were important, but more women than men believed the value of having a stay-at-home parent was an important determining factor.

What do New Hampshire courts think?

Luckily, there are many details New Hampshire courts consider to determine “equal division,” among which include:

  • The “age, health, social or economic status, occupation, vocational skills, employability, separate property, amount and sources of income, and needs and liabilities” of each party
  • Each party’s opportunity to earn money in the future
  • The custodial parent’s ability to become gainfully employed without interfering with their children’s interests while in their care
  • How the actions of either party during their marriage contributed to the increase or decrease in value of the couple’s shared property
  • Any significant differences in the parties’ contributions to the marriage, which can include childcare, childhood education and home management
  • How either party directly or indirectly helped advance the career or employability of the other party

All of these factors matter for stay-at-home mothers in a divorce and help assign value to their contributions – even if they didn’t bring in a salary. They deserve to have a stable financial life after a divorce that recognizes their unpaid labor.

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