Stay-at-Home Mom Facing Divorce? Don’t Expect Alimony? Forbes article is way overstated.

Forbes recently published an article entitled “Stay-at-Home Mom Facing Divorce? Don’t Expect Alimony” in which the author talks about how the trend is towards women not receiving any spousal support, even when they have been a stay-at-home mom for years and have not been in the workforce.Mother and Daughter Baking Together

In my opinion, at least for Colorado, while there has been a trend away from lifetime maintenance, the article is overstating what is actually going on both in the Courts and when people negotiate their own settlements through mediation.

The article implies that someone who has been a stay at home mom and has not worked for years and has no qualifications, and was married to someone who is making $200,000 annually, should be expected to go out and get a job and support herself is, in my experience, an unrealistic expectation.  Certainly, the courts are expecting parents who have teenage children to go to work, but with an income difference as large as indicated by this case, spousal support for some period of time would make sense.

In Colorado we have a new statute that built upon the previous one in that it now provides a formula for a guidance amount of maintenance (including a maximum) and a length of time.  These are for guidance only and are only one factor the Court is to look at when determining a maintenance award.  Other factors include the need of the potential recipient, the ability of the potential payor to pay maintenance, the health of the parties, their earning ability and work history, ages of the parties, lifestyle during the marriage, economic resources available to the parties, and any other factors the court may deem relevant.

If you choose to make your own decisions, rather than rely on the Court to decide for you, then you can take all the factors into account and work out a plan that makes sense and feels fair for both of you and your children.  In my practice, I use financial software to help people understand their financial situation and what the options are for running two households. We can determine after tax cash positions of each person, taking into account their income, expenses and debt payments, which is very powerful for working out whether spousal support is needed and how much.   This often can involve reducing expenses as the combined incomes often cannot afford the previously enjoyed lifestyle.  We can also look at what the future may hold in terms of income and expenses as the situation changes (children getting older, improved incomes, etc) to see if spousal support should change over time, and for how long spousal support will be needed.

To me, it is important that parents think very carefully about what is best for the children in making decisions about spousal support.  Is it best for the children, and make financial sense, for the primary care parent to work full time and put the children into before and after school care?  Does part time work make more sense, at least until the children are a bit older?

To me, the key issue about spousal support is what makes sense for the family moving forward?  What feels fair, and makes sense, given all the circumstances?  I believe that many people have the ability to work this out for themselves, with a little help from a divorce professional, as long as they are willing to “problem-solve” and be fair with each other, rather than go for an “I win- You lose” result.