Study looks at attitudes toward stay-at-home parents in divorce

In a community property state like California, a stay-at-home parent is entitled to an equal share of the marital assets in a divorce, even if that parent has never worked outside the home. The value of each spouse's contribution may be weighed in deciding how to divide assets. However, it can be difficult to put a monetary amount on the contributions of a stay-at-home parent.

Roughly one-quarter of American mothers with kids 18 or under stay home. However, only 7% of fathers stay at home with the kids. A study that examined attitudes toward a stay-at-home mother in a divorce scenario found that while both men and women recognized the value of being the breadwinner and the caregiver, women awarded more to the mom in the divorce. The scenario gave the same information for the father(breadwinner) and mother(caregiver), but there were six variations in their property, occupations and education. Men tended to appreciate the breadwinner's contributions more highly, but they gave a larger share of the property to the mother if she had more education.

About 10 percent of mothers who have at least a master's degree are also stay-at-home mothers. However, some studies indicate that stay-at-home mothers usually do not get long-term spousal support.

Spousal support is often given for just long enough for the receiving spouse to retrain or find a new job. Both the stay-at-home parent and the breadwinning parent may be worried about the financial impact of divorce. Even in a community property state like California, not all marital assets will be split 50/50. Some property, such as an inheritance that has not been mingled with shared assets, is unlikely to be considered shared. A lawyer could help a divorcing spouse navigate the property division process.

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