Legal Implications of Divorcing an Unemployed Husband

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

Legal Implications of Divorcing an Unemployed Husband

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

The main legal implications of divorcing an unemployed husband center around child support, alimony, and distribution of property. An unemployed spouse is fairly vulnerable in a divorce proceeding, whether they are awarded financial support is typically left to the discretion of the judge presiding over your case. Many states look at the unemployment status: voluntary or involuntary. There is also the harsh reality that gender-bias still exists and some courts may view unemployed husbands in a different way than unemployed wives.

Upset woman sitting at a counter, while her husband sits on a couch in the background

Obligation to Pay Child Support

An unemployed noncustodial husband still has an obligation to support his children after a divorce. However, his unemployment may impact how much he has to pay and for what he will have to pay. If there is an existing court order that requires him to pay you a certain amount in child support every month, he is obligated to continue paying that amount, regardless of his employment status, unless he petitions the court to decrease his support based on unemployment.

Judges tend to be fairly sympathetic to an unemployed parent seeking a reduction in child support payments, but they must also balance the competing needs of the custodial parent and the children. Consequently, many states have enacted laws that require the noncustodial parent to pay a minimum amount of child support regardless of whether they're working at the time.

Another factor when determining how much child support your husband should pay is whether his unemployment is voluntary or involuntary. In cases where unemployment is voluntary, a court may impute income to the unemployed spouse. This simply means that the court credits income to the unemployed parent by determining the amount they could have earned had they decided to work, and then use that assignment when calculating how much child support they owe.

Spousal Support

If your husband is unemployed when you get a divorce, he may ask the court for alimony, or spousal support, as part of the divorce order. Courts have a wide array of discretion when it comes to alimony. Multiple factors are considered when determining whether spousal support is appropriate.

For example, if during your marriage you agreed that your husband would be a stay-at-home dad while you earned the money, a court will consider your husband's age and opportunities to go back to school or learn new skills to get a well-paying job.

If he is relatively young, a judge may order temporary alimony to extend just a few years after your divorce. This provides him with an income long enough to earn a degree, learn a trade, or develop a skill so he'll eventually earn his own living wage.

Division of Property

Where you live—be it a community property state or an equitable distribute state—is a significant factor in divorcing an unemployed husband. In community property states, both spouses equally own property acquired during a marriage, regardless of who actually paid for it. So, in a divorce proceeding, a judge typically divides marital property 50/50. Even if your husband chose not to work and let you earn all the income, he is still entitled to half of all marital property.

By contrast, in equitable distribution states, a judge divides marital property based on equity—what's fair. This does not always mean a 50/50 split. If your husband is unemployed because of a disability that makes him unable to work, a judge may grant him a larger share of property.

Divorce proceedings can get complicated fairly quickly. If you want additional insight, consider enlisting the help of a professional.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help.

Learn more