Lisa L. Johnson, Attorney at Law
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Stay-at-home parents affected by divorce

If you are divorcing and are a stay-at-home parent, it's important that you understand the rights that you have when dividing your marital property.

Some stay-at-home parents abandoned lucrative careers when the children were born, preferring to care for their offspring themselves rather than send them off to daycare every day. But regardless of your motivation for remaining at home with the children, your lack of employment doesn't mean that you give up any rights to a fair division of the marital spoils.

Most stay-at-home parents are female

Although there certainly are exceptions, more stay-at-home parents are women than men. When a divorce is pending, these women often worry that their interests will not be fairly represented during the process.

Kentucky is an equitable property state

Like the majority of states, Kentucky relies on an equitable distribution system in dividing marital assets in divorce. This means that the courts use statutory guidelines to carve out a "fair but not necessarily equal division of the property" owned by divorcing couples.

Know what you have

Before you can negotiate for the marital assets that will leave you best poised for this next chapter of your life, you must first familiarize yourself with the financial details of your marriage.

Some stay-at-home parents are the ones who typically pay all of the household bills. These spouses usually already have a fairly good idea of the value of many marital assets but may be unsure about some like retirement accounts and other pension benefits.

Still other stay-at-home spouses may be totally in the dark about their net worth as a couple. It is these spouses who are most vulnerable when blindsided by divorce.

Plan a post-divorce budget

You can only negotiate from a strong position if you have already done your homework. That means that you must figure out how much it will take to support your lifestyle after a divorce.

While, inevitably, divorce involves some belt-tightening, if you were used to a country club, upper middle-class lifestyle, you should not have to resort to pinching pennies to keep the utilities on.

You and your family law attorney can devise a workable budget that will cover your expenses. You will likely need to seek and secure gainful employment to supplement any alimony and child support that you receive from your spouse.

Determine which assets to keep

Some assets may actually be liabilities if you fight to keep them but can't afford them. This is particularly true of the family home, which often stay-at-home parents fight like tooth and nail to retain.

You may be able to afford to keep the home, but depending on your particular circumstances, it might be wiser to angle for a larger chunk of the retirement accounts in lieu of your share of the home. Be sure to review various settlement scenarios to ensure that you choose the best option to meet your present and future needs.

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