Legal Implications of Divorcing an Unemployed Husband

By Beverly Bird

If you are divorcing an unemployed spouse, it makes a difference whether his lack of work is voluntarily or involuntary, and a gender bias often exists when the non-working spouse is the husband. Legally, he is entitled to the same considerations as an unemployed wife. However, because many aspects of divorce come down to the opinion of a single judge, this does not always hold true. Some courts view non-working husbands suspiciously, assuming they could work and earn money if they chose to.

Child Support

According to the United States Census Bureau, mothers comprised 82.6 percent of the nation’s custodial parents in 2008, the last year for which statistics are available. Except for unusual circumstances, an equal percentage of non-custodial fathers were probably obligated to pay child support. When a non-custodial parent is unemployed, courts will usually impute income to him based on several factors, including what he could earn if he worked. This is especially true when he’s unemployed by choice rather than by an inability to find employment or a disability that prevents him from performing any sort of job. Even in cases of involuntary unemployment, the laws in most states set a minimum child support amount a parent must pay. For example, in Massachusetts, a non-custodial parent must pay at least $80 a month. Regardless of whether your husband is working or not, it’s unlikely that you would receive absolutely no child support from him if you are the custodial parent.

Alimony

If your husband is not working, he may ask the court for alimony as part of your divorce. If, during your marriage, you agreed that he should stay home and care for the house and the children while you worked, courts will take this into consideration. They will likely factor in whether he will continue to be the children’s custodial parent and if it’s appropriate for him to continue to stay home to care for them, for example, in the case of children who are very young or disabled. At the very least, you might have to pay him support while your divorce is pending and for a short time afterward while he takes steps to reenter the workforce or find a job. If he cannot work because of a disability, you might have to pay permanent alimony. Some states, such as New Jersey, are willing to impute income to an intentionally unemployed spouse in alimony situations.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Community Property States

In community property states, both spouses equally own everything purchased or acquired during the marriage. Even if your husband chose not to work and let you earn all the income, he’s usually entitled to half of the marital property you purchased with that income in such states. However, the laws permit judges to stray from an exact 50/50 split in some isolated circumstances. For example, if your husband is unemployed because he is disabled and incapable of working, a court might give him a little more property to compensate for this. If he chooses not to work, the 50/50 law would likely apply.

Equitable Distribution States

Equitable distribution states view marital property differently. In these states, if one spouse holds title to an asset in her own name, it is her property. However, this doesn’t mean the other spouse isn’t entitled to a share of it. Judges divide both jointly owned property and separately owned property in a way that is “equitable.” Equitable does not mean 50/50; in legal terms, it means “fair.” If your husband is unemployed because he’s incapable of working, he is likely to receive more property just as he would in a community property state. However, absent circumstances such as this, equitable distribution states usually award more marital property to the higher wage-earner. If your husband has been deliberately unemployed for a length of time and you purchased most of the marital property, you can probably expect to receive more than 50 percent of it in a divorce.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
What are the Rights of an Unemployed Wife in a Divorce?

References

Related articles

How Is Alimony Calculated in Ohio?

Ohio's legislative code doesn't contain a mathematical equation for calculating alimony, also called spousal support. What it does include is a list of 14 factors that judges are supposed to consider when deciding whether to order alimony and, if so, for how long. These are somewhat loose guidelines, however, because they don't say how much weight a judge should give to each factor. Ultimately, it comes down to the opinion of the judge deciding each individual case.

How Are Alimony Payments Determined?

Alimony is never a sure thing in a divorce. In most states, it comes down to the discretion of a judge. Congress has passed the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act to address alimony, but it includes suggestions for awarding it, not hard and fast laws. One common guideline is the length of a marriage. Judges most commonly award alimony after long-term marriages and almost never after marriages of just a few years’ duration.

Alabama Laws on Child Support & the Restart of Child Support

Child support in Alabama is usually determined in a straightforward manner. As in many other states, Alabama uses the "income shares" model to determine child support. The formula takes into account the combined gross income of both parents, percentage each parent earns and several other factors such as who pays for health insurance. Either parent can ask for the child support amount to be recalculated at any time when there is a change of circumstances. There are situations when child support is stopped and then restarted, but they are rare.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

What Happens if Someone Quits Jobs in the Middle of a Divorce?

It's not an uncommon occurrence; faced with paying child support or alimony, a spouse might decide mid-divorce to earn ...

Divorcing a Retired Man

If your husband has retired, your divorce will probably only address finances and property. Your children are probably ...

What Are the Legal Rights of Women in Divorce?

Marriage is a binding legal contract. Two people obligate themselves as partners, presumably for life. But marriage ...

Is it True a Husband Always Has to Pay Alimony When They Get Divorced?

When couples divorce, one or both spouses may ask the court to award alimony, also known as spousal support and ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED