Woman taking off her wedding ring

My Spouse Did Not Work During Our Marriage -are They Owed Anything in Our Divorce?

patrickcrawford | July 11, 2019

Spouses divide financial and household responsibilities in many different ways. Both spouses may work full-time, even after having kids, or one spouse may work part-time. In many situations, one spouse might stay home and not work while the other is the primary financial supporter of the family. 

In the past, traditional gender roles often led to a wife staying home while a husband worked. In today’s society, however, a one-working-spouse household may be driven by many other factors. In many cases, the cost of daycare is more than a spouse’s income, so it makes financial sense for that spouse to stop working to take care of a child. In other situations, one spouse may earn enough to fully support the household, and there is no need for the other spouse to also work. Finally, it is no longer assumed that the wife will be the one to stay home, as there are many stay-at-home dads that rely on their wife’s income.

If you are the one who worked while your spouse did not, you might have many questions when it comes time for a divorce. One of the most common questions from people in this situation is: Does your spouse get anything if they did not earn it? 

It is imperative that you speak with an experienced Annapolis divorce lawyer if you are considering a divorce and are the sole wage-earner. Attorney Patrick Crawford can review your situation and inform you of your rights. Contact the office today to set up an appointment to learn more about the divorce process and how we can help.

Division of Marital Property

The law in Maryland does not give everything to one spouse simply because they worked and the other spouse did not. The law recognizes that many spouses make professional sacrifices for the good of the household, which often means giving up a career path to care for children and relying on the income of the other spouse. The law does not penalize someone for this decision, so a non-working spouse will have considerable rights in a divorce just like a working spouse.

When it comes to the division of property, Maryland law requires the equitable distribution of marital property between the spouses. Generally speaking, marital property is the property and assets that spouses acquired during the course of a marriage. Even if only one spouse earned the income that led to purchases and savings, it is still considered to be marital property and will need to be divided between the spouses upon a divorce.

“Equitable” division does not meet that you must divide your assets and property 50/50 right down the middle. Instead, the courts take your total circumstances into consideration when deciding what type of division is equitable. However, be prepared for your non-working spouse to be entitled to property and assets your acquired based on your sole income, as well as a portion of your retirement savings in many situations. 

When it comes to property division, it is critical to have the right divorce attorney in Annapolis handling your case to ensure that your rights to a fair portion of your hard-earned marital property are fully protected. 

Spousal Support

When one spouse relies on another for financial support during a marriage, they often give up education, professional experience, or training that they otherwise would have received. Once they lose the financial support of a spouse in a divorce, they likely do not have the necessary qualifications to jump back into the workforce at the level needed to fully support themselves right away. Instead, the non-working spouse may need time to gain the education or training they need to get the right employment.

Maryland law provides such spouses with the right to seek spousal support, also called alimony or maintenance. This is a payment from the spouse that worked intended to provide support until they can support themselves. Fortunately, gone are the days when courts regularly awarded indefinite or permanent alimony to a non-working spouse. Now, those types of awards are rare and saved for situations involving an older spouse, a very long marriage, or a spouse who otherwise is unable to work. 

Instead, the court will determine what period of time is reasonable for the non-working spouse to find gainful employment. If the spouse has only been staying home for a short time, the term of support will be significantly shorter than for a spouse who stayed home and did not work during a 10-year marriage. 

Courts consider many factors when awarding spousal support, including:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The financial situation and standard of living during the marriage
  • The age and health of the non-working spouse
  • The reason for divorce (e.g., adultery may affect an alimony decision)
  • The earning ability of the non-working spouse and their ability to become self-supporting
  • The time period needed for the non-working spouse to find suitable employment
  • The contributions of each spouse to the marriage, which can include financial contributions as well as non-financial, including household services
  • The ability of the working spouse to provide support
  • Any prenuptial agreements between the spouses regarding spousal support rights
  • The financial resources of each spouse, including non-community property each spouse retains, awards of marital property in the divorce, and other assets 
  • The financial obligations of each party, including basic expenses, housing, child support, and more

An Annapolis divorce attorney can help ensure that any spousal support awards for your spouse are fair and just given the circumstances. 

Child Support

In many situations, one spouse does not work in order to care for children. In a divorce, when there is a discrepancy income between parents, the law generally requires the parent with more income to provide child support payments to the parent with less – or no – income. If one spouse worked and one did not, the working spouse should expect a child support order.

Child support is calculated based on a specific formula under Maryland law. This formula takes into consideration each spouse’s income and expenses to ensure the child is properly provided for. The good news is that child support orders may be modified if the circumstances change in the future. Therefore, if your non-working spouse finds a good job after the divorce, you can have the court revisit the matter and adjust the child support order based on their new income. 

Contact an Annapolis Divorce Lawyer to Discuss Your Rights in Your Specific Divorce Right Away

Financial issues can be contentious in a divorce when one spouse worked and the other did not. If you supported your spouse during your marriage, you may have to continue doing so for a period of time after a divorce. It is critical to have a skilled divorce lawyer on your side who can make sure that all divorce orders are fair to you, and that they do not overly favor your spouse who was not working.

The Law Office of Patrick Crawford represents spouses who worked or who did not work during every step of the divorce process. To learn more about how we can help in your situation, call (410) 216-7905 or contact us online for more information today.