Considerations of Divorcing an Unemployed Husband or Wife

divorcing an unemployed husband or wife

Are you divorcing an unemployed husband or wife? Long spells of unemployment for one or both partners in a marriage can put undue stress on a relationship. Although unemployment might not be the primary reason you seek a divorce, it might be a contributing factor. Unemployment changes the financial situation for a divorce, especially if the spouse has typically contributed to household income, making the situation more challenging.

Below we provide some information and considerations to help you navigate the muddy waters of divorcing an unemployed spouse in California.

Unemployment Does Not Impact Property Division During the Divorce Process

California is one of nine community property states in the United States. In community property states, the law forces married couples to divide everything they acquired during their marriage evenly in the event they get a divorce. Community property recognizes a person’s non-financial contributions to a marriage, so it does not mean your unemployed spouse with less income gets more during the split.

Any property that you brought into the marriage, gifts, and inheritance fall under the umbrella of separate property. Unfortunately, the division of property is not always a clean cut. Sometimes married couples use community assets to update or maintain a separate asset and vice versa.

Community property laws in California include more than the division of bank accounts, vehicles, and homes. You must also divide liabilities. Both spouses are responsible for debts acquired during the marriage. The only way that community property division changes much during a divorce is if you and your spouse signed a prenup before marriage.

Unemployment Impacts Spousal Support

If your husband or wife is unemployed, there is a good chance the court will order you to pay spousal support—also called alimony—after a divorce. However, unemployment is only one factor that impacts spousal support. In reviewing a spouse’s unemployment, the court will likely determine whether unemployment is voluntary or involuntary. For example, did your spouse get laid off from a job after their employer downsized or did your spouse voluntarily stay at home to help raise children?

The standard of living you and your spouse had during the marriage, ages, and the potential for the unemployed spouse to learn new skills and find employment also factors into the amount of support you might have to pay. Finally, if your unemployed spouse sacrificed their career so you could thrive, it could increase the support you have to pay.

Unemployment Impacts Child Custody and Support

If you and your spouse had children and they are under age 18 at the time of divorce, child custody and support will play a big role in your divorce. Your spouse’s employment status will impact the custody arrangement and the amount of support you will have to pay. However, keep in mind that the court prioritizes the child’s best interest when making custody decisions.

Child Custody

California, like other states, prefers joint custody arrangements in which minor children get to spend equal time with each parent. Yet, sometimes this is not possible, so they need to make adjustments. If your spouse is unemployed because they were a stay-at-home parent and provided care to your children, this could sway physical custody towards your spouse. The court evaluates other factors, such as the relationship between each child and parent and the relationship a child has with siblings or other family members in each future household.

If your spouse is unemployed because of a disability or other health issues that prevent them from caring for a child, the court will also take this into consideration. Additionally, the court hears the wishes of a child, especially those who are age 12 or older.

Child Support

One of the main factors that impact the amount you have to pay for child support is the amount of time you get to spend with your child. Your income also plays a big role in the amount of child support you must pay. If your unemployed spouse has the most time with your child, it’s likely the court will order you to pay the maximum amount of child support for your income. Conversely, if you spend the most time with your children, you might not have to pay any child support. Ultimately, the way an unemployed spouse impacts child support varies with each situation. 

Stay Current & Request a Modification if Necessary

If you have to pay more child support because of your spouse’s unemployment, you might feel resentful. Remember that once your support payments are due, you cannot reduce them. Even if you file bankruptcy, you will still owe back child support. In fact, the court might garnish your wages. It’s in your best interest to stay current with your child support. If you lose your job, have to take a pay cut, or suffer a debilitating injury that prevents you from working, it’s best to request a modification. Courts aren’t quick to grant them but will take any substantial change in income into account. This can prevent you from building up a big amount of back child support that could be difficult to dig out of.

Hire an Experienced Divorce Attorney Who Can Help

If your spouse is unemployed, you are likely anxious about the amount of spousal maintenance, child support, and attorney fees you will need to pay. Some choose to represent themselves to save money in this situation. However, proceeding with a divorce without a knowledgeable attorney fighting for you could cost much more in the end. Your unemployed spouse could land a reputable divorce lawyer on the basis that they will request you pay for attorney fees.

An experienced divorce lawyer can protect your rights and help make sure you don’t have to pay more than your fair share. The money some save by hiring a divorce attorney more than offsets attorney fees. Contact the skilled divorce lawyers at Pedrick Law Group, APC online or at 818-325-3934 to discuss your circumstances and learn more about how we can help.


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