Facing Divorce as a Stay at Home Mom

Aug 28, 2014


You have invested years of your life raising your children and taking care of the home. Unfortunately your marriage is coming to an end and you are uncertain of the future. Since you have devoted your time to raising your children, you have no outside employment, little experience in the workforce, and no income. Before stressing about the consequences of divorce, learn about how the court typically handles a divorce involving a stay at home mom.

Child Placement

A common misconception is that the court will automatically grant a stay at home mom primary physical placement of the children because they have been the main caretaker. This is incorrect. If the parents cannot agree to a placement schedule, the courts primary goal is to give the parents equal placement, adjusting the schedule based on the details of the case. For instance, the court will not give an over the road truck driving father 50% placement when he will be gone the majority of the time. However, if the father works a normal day job, then times of placement are not an issue.

As long as there are no abuse, alcohol or drug issues, the court will strive to achieve 50/50 placement between the parties as they feel this is in the best interest of the children. If you desire more placement, or have a reason the father should not have 50% placement, then you will have to fight for it.

It should be noted that a common problem stay at home moms face is the living arrangements. Since most stay at home moms have little to no income, they may be forced to live with friends or family or in a low income apartment complex. If the living arrangements are inadequate, this will be brought up in court and may negatively impact your case.

Child Support

Child support is calculated based on periods of placement and each parties’ income. If placement is 50/50 or neither party has 75% placement or more, the court calculates child support based on both parties income. It is a complicated equation that requires both parties to contribute the same percentage of their gross income towards the raising of the children. Since stay at home moms have no income, the court is likely to impute an income to the mother, which will be discussed further under Maintenance/Alimony.

If one party has the children more than 75% of the time, child support is calculated using the following amounts:

17% of gross income for one child

25% of gross income for two children

29% of gross income for three children

31% of gross income for four children

34% of gross income for five or more children

The court will most likely make both parties responsible for 50% of the children’s variable expenses. Variable expenses are any reasonable cost of the children that are above basic support costs, such as medical bills, child care, tuition, a child’s special needs, and other activities that involve substantial costs.

As a stay at home mom, mostly likely health insurance for the children will be provided by the father’s employment after the divorce. The courts consider the cost of the insurance and reduces the child support awarded to offset half of the cost.

Health Insurance

What about health insurance for yourself? Even if your husband wanted to, he is not allowed to carry you under his health insurance at work after the divorce is finalized. However, you may be eligible through his employer’s insurance for “COBRA” Insurance. This is where you are still apart of the group plan but have to pay the fees for a single person plus the fees that would normally be covered by the employer. This can end up being an expensive policy and is limited to only 12 or 18 months.

If you and the children qualify, you may be able to obtain BadgerCare. Unfortunately, if the father is able to provide insurance through his employer, the court will order him to cover the children even if the plan is inferior to BadgerCare. If this happens, you will no longer be able to receive BadgerCare without the children.

Private health insurance is not horribly expensive if you are relatively healthy and meet the requirements of the insurance company. Since the introduction of Obama Care, the ability to get private insurance has become easier but the new laws can change.

Property division

All marital property of the parties is split 50/50. The court will deviate from the 50/50 split based on the facts of the case, such as what was owned prior to marriage. The court does not consider whose name the item is titled under or whose income was used to purchase the items.

It is common for husbands to argue that their retirement funds at work are not marital property because the money was taken from their pay check and is listed under their name solely. This is incorrect. The court will consider all retirement accounts created and contributed to during the marriage to be marital property, no matter whose income was invested.

Another false argument is that property titled under only the husband’s name, such as vehicles or real estate, is not going to be split 50/50. Whoever’s name something is titled under doesn’t matter, the court is going to make sure each party receives their half of the value of the asset. Nonetheless, it should be noted that an exception to this rule is if the property was inherited or gifted to only one party and was kept under only that party’s name.

During divorce negotiations, we frequently remind our clients to be careful what they wish for. It is common for the mothers to want ownership of the home when the divorce is done. Usually the house has a mortgage payment, property taxes and upkeep expenses. If your income is limited as a stay at home mom, you may not be able to afford these expenses and will eventually lose the home to foreclosure. Therefore, you need to always keep in mind the cost of taking ownership of an asset in the divorce before you request it.


Maintenance, which is Wisconsin’s legal term for Alimony, is not as simple as child support. While child support is based on a math calculation, maintenance is much more subjective. The law for maintenance has a list of factors the court should take in to consideration when deciding if a party should receive maintenance.

The most common factor the court looks at is the length of the marriage. There is no set rule for how long a marriage should be before a party receives maintenance. However, 10 years is a common mark. The court will also look at what each party’s responsibilities were during the marriage. The court will take into consideration the fact that you stayed at home to take care of the children allowing him to advance in his career. Also, the court will look at each party’s income earning potential, which is factors such as age, physical limitations, and experience in the workforce.

Once the court decides a party is entitled to maintenance, the court determines maintenance on the idea that each party should have the same amount of disposable income. Disposable income is the money you have after taxes and child support are calculated. Since you are a stay at home mom, there is no income to calculate. Instead, the court will impute an income to you. Imputing an income is where the court looks at your work history, education, and physical abilities and determines what kind of money you would be making if you were to find full time employment. The court then calculates maintenance by comparing his income to your imputed income. After the amount of maintenance is calculated, the court will order maintenance for a period of time. Usually, it is half the length of the marriage, but it is at the court’s discretion.

Hopefully we have shed some light on the issues you will be facing as a stay at home mother going through a divorce. There are many issues that we have discussed that you need to plan ahead for. Remember, every case is unique and you should talk directly to an attorney about the particulars of your case. Here at Pedersen Law Office, will guide you through the process. We offer free consultations in all of our areas of practice and would be more than happy to meet with you and see how we can help you. Our law office serves the communities of Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, Oshkosh, Green Bay and their surrounding areas.

Category: Divorce

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