Stay-at-home moms may have financial difficulties if raising their children as single parents. Without income from employment, a stay-at-home mother may need financial help from a former husband or partner. For some mothers, alimony may be a source of monetary support after a separation or divorce. The availability and duration of alimony, known as “spousal maintenance” in Indiana, depends on both state law and the individual circumstances of a divorcing stay-at-home mother.
Right to Request Alimony
A stay-at-home mother's right to request alimony is established by Indiana's marriage and divorce laws. In Indiana, a stay-at-home mother may request spousal maintenance as a temporary order of support, granted during a pending divorce, and/or spousal maintenance for a longer duration, as part of the final decree for divorce or legal separation. However, if a stay-at-home mother was never married to her child's father, she cannot request alimony from him.
Rehabilitative Spousal Maintenance
When a stay-at-home mother has chosen to forgo employment or spent time at home caring for a child, spousal maintenance may become necessary if the spouses divorce. As a result of being out of the workforce for a period of time, a stay-at-home mother may need additional time to find employment that provides for her financial needs and that of her child. In Indiana, the court may award rehabilitative maintenance for a short time so that a stay-at-home mother can prepare to reenter the workforce. The court must consider the amount of time spent outside of the workforce and the amount of time required for a stay-at-home mother to develop the skills and educational credentials necessary for future employment. Indiana sets the maximum period of rehabilitative maintenance at three years.
Long-Term Spousal Maintenance Award
Under limited circumstances, a stay-at-home mother may be able to obtain a court order for spousal maintenance extending beyond the three-year limit for rehabilitative maintenance. Indiana law permits a longer period of spousal maintenance if the recipient is the caregiver of a mentally or physically incapacitated child and cannot work because of her caregiver obligations. To qualify, the caregiver must show she lacks sufficient property to support herself. Indiana also allows a court to award spousal maintenance to a stay-at-home mother who is mentally or physically incapacitated to the extent she cannot support herself without financial help. If the court grants spousal maintenance under these circumstances, the former husband may request a change or end to the court order if the stay-at-home mother's circumstances change materially, reducing or eliminating the need for financial support.
Spousal Maintenance and Premarital Agreements
Some couples sign premarital agreements before marrying. If a stay-at-home mother signed such an agreement, the terms of the agreement may preclude the possibility of a spousal maintenance award in the event of divorce. Whether a stay-at-home mother is eligible for alimony depends on the enforceability of such an agreement. Under Indiana law, the court cannot enforce a premarital agreement's ban on spousal maintenance if doing so would leave the stay-at-home mother in "extreme hardship," circumstances of which were not reasonably foreseeable at the time the stay-at-home mother entered into the premarital agreement. For example, a lack of spousal maintenance while raising children may create financial circumstances that are overly burdensome to a stay-at-home mother and not foreseeable at the time she signed the premarital agreement. If the court declines to uphold the alimony terms of the premarital agreement, the stay-at-home mother is then free to petition the court for spousal maintenance.