Rights of Stay-At-Home Parents in Divorce

In the face of divorce, stay-at-home moms and dads face unique challenges. Usually, they have been financially dependent on their breadwinner spouse and they may not have any income sources of their own. So, an impending divorce can cause them to wonder, “Will my spouse get the kids because I’m unemployed? Is alimony (spousal maintenance) guaranteed since I’ve been out of work?”

Whether you’ve been a stay-at-home parent or if you’re unemployed at the moment, you have a lot to think about, especially as it pertains to financially supporting yourself during and after the divorce. Here’s what you need to know about child custody, child support, and spousal maintenance:

1. Child Custody

Suppose you want the children to live with you primarily. Your goal is to have more “parenting time” with the children and to have your spouse pay you child support. If your spouse readily agrees to this arrangement, you should not have any issues, but if he or she wants to have more parenting time, or if they want to have almost equal parenting time, the judge will have to step in and decide based on the best interests of the children.

Some stay-a-home parents assume they’ll get custody of the kids, but that is not necessarily the case. If the other parent is fighting for equal parenting time and he or she is a stable, loving parent, the court may lean towards an arrangement where the both parents spend a lot of time with the children. So, even if you’ve been raising the kids all these years, you still may have to share them with your spouse more than you thought.

2. Child Support

Child support is more black and white than child custody and spousal maintenance. Basically, whoever gets the kids for more overnights throughout the year is the parent who receives child support.

3. Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance is not guaranteed in a divorce. It is strictly awarded on a case-by-case basis and when it is, it’s usually on a temporary basis until the lower-earning spouse can become self-sufficient. If you have a college degree and voluntarily stepped away from the workforce to raise you children, your chances of receiving spousal maintenance are lower than if you only had a high school education.

As a general rule, the Colorado courts award spousal support on a temporary basis until the dependent spouse finds a job, or gains the education, training, or job skills necessary to support themselves. The court may award you temporary maintenance if:

  • Your combined annual income does not exceed $75,000.
  • Your combined annual income exceeds $75,000 but: 1) you have insufficient property to provide for yourself, 2) you are caring for a young child, 3) you are caring for a disabled child, or 4) it would not be easy for you to support yourself through regular employment.

Related: When Does Alimony End In Colorado?

“What about marital misconduct? If I cheated on my spouse, would it automatically disqualify me from receiving spousal maintenance?” Colorado is a no-fault divorce state; therefore, marital misconduct or adultery would not bar a dependent spouse from receiving spousal maintenance.

To speak with a Denver divorce attorney for free, contact us today.


The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

Our team includes attorneys licensed to practice in multiple states including April D. Jones in California, Patrick G. Barkman in Texas, the Cherokee Nation, the Northern District of Texas, and the District of Colorado (United States Court of Appeals 10th and 5th Circuit).