Past societies rarely gave any importance to “stay at home dad” divorce. Many people still view the construction of a family unit as a working father and a mother who stays at home and takes care of her children. While this idea is still widespread today, many families now include working mothers and stay-at-home dads.
When it comes to divorce, we tend to focus on what will happen to a stay-at-home mom.
Still, we never think about unemployed fathers and how the split can affect them significantly. And since men’s unemployment is not so prevalent, many fathers question their rights or responsibilities after a divorce.
Divorce For Stay at Home Dads
Stay at home dads divorce rates have increased significantly throughout the years. As of 2012, the number of unemployed fathers reached 2 million in the U.S., which equals 16% of the unemployed population.
Of the 2 million unemployed fathers, 23% reported they stay at home because they can’t find any suitable jobs. In contrast, 21% stated their main unemployment reason is to stay at home and care for their families.
One study showed that unemployed husbands are 33% more likely to divorce than those who had full-time jobs. Alexandra Killewald, a sociology professor at Harvard University, said, “contemporary husbands face a higher risk of divorce when they do not fulfill the stereotypical breadwinner role by being employed full-time.”
In the case of unemployed women, children will primarily stay with their mothers after a divorce. She also gets child support and spousal support to continue living the lifestyle before the divorce. So, is this any different for unemployed fathers?
Unemployed Dads’ Rights In Divorce
When it comes to stay at home dads’ divorce rights are equal to those of an unemployed wife. The laws across the U.S. are gender neutral which reflects efforts towards gender equality.
However, this doesn’t mean that society has changed how it thinks about fathers’ and mothers’ duties. Most of us depict a family of a caring mother and a hard-working father. Thus, we tend to believe that a mother will have far more rights in a divorce than her husband, but this is no longer true.
Stay-at-home dads have the same rights to child support and custody, similar to an unemployed mother’s rights, even if the wife is the family’s breadwinner. However, this does not guarantee that the stay-at-home dad will obtain spousal support, primary customer, or child support.
It depends on each case:
- Voluntary Unemployment: a father who falls under this category has enough education and experience, making him a strong candidate in the job market. However, he chooses to stay home and focus his energy on raising the children.
- Non-Working Stay-At-Home Fathers: these fathers are those who involuntarily exited the employment market. And that’s because they have limited skills, poor education, physical impairment, and other limitations. Some fathers fall into this category simply because they choose not to work and without any valid reason.
The court treats each case differently when it comes to a father’s rights after divorce. The court values each parent’s importance and his/her role. It will take measures based on what’s best for your children. Make sure to enlist a professional divorce lawyer to protect yourself and the relationship with your child.
What Else Should You Know?
In the case of stay at home dads and divorce, courts prefer that husbands sort out terms and any possible issues with their wives in a friendly manner. In other words, if you’re an unemployed father and you seek spousal support and primary child custody, you must first try to resolve issues with your wife. In case your wife asks for joint custody and refuses to pay spousal support, then you will certainly need extra help from the court.
Suppose an unemployed father seeks at once child support, physical custody, and spousal support. In that case, the court will treat his divorce case equally to a stay-at-home mother divorce. However, suppose your wife seeks joint custody, and she’s legally fit. In that case, the court will most likely allow it, and the parents will spend equal time with their children after the divorce.
As for spousal support, the court considers different factors, including the division of assets, the father’s employability, and the wife’s financial ability. Even if you do get spousal support and primary child custody, the court may still modify them in the future.
Tips To Start Your Divorce on the Right Path
Regardless of what a child’s best interests might be, society still pressures mothers to fight for her right and get primary custody. Thus, you might find yourself in a battle with your wife, although you’re unemployed and spend much more time and energy on raising your kids.
Here are some tips to get you on the right path and help you secure your right to parent and care for your children:
- Be the first spouse to file for divorce. If you manage to file for divorce first, you will get an immediate advantage. In other words, you will be the first to speak with the judge and set the tone for how you want the whole case to proceed.
- Gather as much information as possible. Ensure you gather as much proof as possible on what responsibility you carry out daily as your children’s primary caregiver. It will also be beneficial to prove your relationship with your children.
- Enter ex parte orders. Depending on whether the jurisdiction will allow it, ex parte orders give you the first say when you enter the custody battle with your wife.
- Get your witnesses ready. It is important to gather any witnesses who can testify about the relationship that you have with your children. Keep in mind that your witnesses should have a lot more to say than “he’s an excellent father for his children.”For instance, you must make people see or imagine the strong relationship with your children, even if through an old video that a friend took of you while playing in the garden. Your witnesses will need to clearly describe and convince others that you’re everything your children need.
- Do not talk bad about your wife. Always acknowledge the fact that the presence of a mother is valuable in the life of your children. Never bad-mouth the mother of your little ones. The judge will not tolerate such behavior, and you will hurt your children’s feelings as well.
- Consider negotiation. In most cases, spousal support and child custody require negotiations between spouses and their divorce attorneys. It is okay to hold out for what you believe is right and best for your children. All you need to do is ensure your divorce attorney knows what you’re looking forward to achieving and that they are suitable enough to fight for what you want.
- Do not deny sharing parenting time with your wife. Judges do not favor one spouse’s actions trying to keep the children from seeing their other parent. Even if you are the primary caregiver in the house, your children must have a healthy relationship with their mother.
To recap all that we have discussed, here are the significant points you must know about divorce and being a stay-at-home dad:
- Divorce and stay at home dads cases increased significantly throughout the years.
- Today, the law treats unemployed fathers’ divorce cases equal to those of unemployed mothers.
- Even though the father is not the house’s breadwinner, he will have equal rights to primary custody, child support, and spousal support.
- Make sure to take the necessary steps to secure the right to parent your children.
Choose your divorce attorney wisely and make sure that they are ready to do whatever it takes and fight for what you believe is best for the whole family.