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Do stay-at-home parents lose everything in divorce?

Question: I’m a stay-at-home mom. My two children are 5 and 3 years old, so I haven’t been able to make money for the past few years. Meanwhile, my husband has purchased most of what we own. Now that we are getting a divorce, do I get half of it? Will he get to keep everything, including the house?

Answer: Parents who sacrifice their career to take care of their home and children do not need to worry that they will be left with nothing. Maryland follows “equitable distribution” of assets in divorce, which means that couples don’t split everything in half. Instead, a court will help decide what each person should receive.

If the house is in both of your names, even if your spouse pays the bills, you might end up keeping it. As the parent who handles most of your child’s upbringing and daily care, you could have a higher claim on the property.

However, to keep the house, you might have to give up other marital assets to keep the division fair. This can be difficult for mothers who have been out of the workforce and may not have as much savings, but your labor in the home can still be a powerful factor in your favor.

In an amicable divorce, you may decide to keep property division between the two of you instead of involving a court. In this case, you would write an agreement that states how you plan to split assets and present it in court. Both of you would have to consent to the terms for the agreement to be accepted. This could let you keep assets that help you raise your children while your husband keeps assets that help his career, for example.

On the other hand, it’s possible that your husband wants to fight for the largest portion of property he can get. This is when you would want experienced legal representation to make sure the asset distribution remains fair to you.

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