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Tips on Divorcing an Unemployed Husband or Wife

Getting divorced means dealing with a number of complexities, including dividing your finances. Is your spouse unemployed as you plan your divorce? It may change the division of assets in your marriage and even leave you responsible for paying alimony, especially if your spouse has stayed at home to support the family throughout your marriage or if unemployment has gone on for a long time. Do you know how your spouse’s lack of employment can impact your divorce–and how to help protect your assets as much as possible?

Tip #1: Start working with an attorney as soon as possible.

Because Louisiana is a community property state, you may struggle with asset division after your marriage–and your spouse’s lack of employment can influence it heavily. An attorney can help you go over your rights and even help you protect some of your assets, especially if you can show that your spouse has failed to seek other employment, that you have not been responsible for supporting your spouse over the course of your marriage, or that your spouse has abused or cheated on you in some way. By working with an attorney, you can get a better idea of what to expect from the beginning. 

Tip #2: Remember that it’s not just about income.

As you’re considering dividing your assets in your divorce, you may fear that your spouse’s income–or lack thereof–will automatically cause you to have to pay alimony. An attorney, however, can help you take a look at the other elements of your marriage that may also help you determine what support your spouse might deserve. Your attorney might ask:

  • What was your spouse’s standard of living during the marriage? For example, if your spouse got used to a relatively high standard of living throughout the marriage, you may need to continue to support your spouse for a period of time after the divorce.
  • What was the reason for your spouse’s lack of employment? A chronically lazy spouse who refused to look for or accept a job, for example, might be looked on less favorably by the courts than a spouse who chose to stay home due to a mutual decision on the part of both parties, and whose role in the family has been to support the household with childcare, cleaning, and other tasks.
  • What is the reason for your divorce? In cases of infidelity or abuse, the courts may look less favorably on the spouse who commits those acts, which could minimize the alimony you actually have to pay. 

Tip #3: Income can impact child custody and support, too. 

As you’re considering your divorce and what it might mean, including how your spouse’s lack of income could impact your divorce, you may also want to consider how that lack of income will impact child custody and child support arrangements. 

In Louisiana, the court aims to make all child-related decisions in the child’s best interests. A number of factors can play into that decision, including each parent’s relationship with the child, whether one parent has been the primary caregiver throughout the child’s life, and even, if the child is around twelve, the child’s wishes on the matter. In addition, the court may consider each parent’s ability to effectively care for the child or children. Raising child support payments, for example, may help a parent who does not have adequate income to care for the children. It may not, however, provide a solution to childcare if that parent does struggle to find a reasonable position when going back to work. 

If the unemployed parent receives more parenting time than the wage-earning parent, the unemployed parent may receive considerably more child support to help pay for the child’s expenses. On the other hand, if the wage-earning parent receives primary custody and/or more parenting time with the child, that parent may not receive as much child support, since the unemployed parent might not have the money to make those payments. 

Tip #4: Remember that support and custody arrangements can change over time. 

While you should not set up your divorce agreement with the assumption that those arrangements will change quickly, you may need to remain aware that child and spousal support arrangements, and even child custody arrangements, can change over time. Suppose, for example, that when you get divorced, you have a much higher income than your unemployed spouse. The court might order you to pay considerable spousal support. Later, however, you may lose your job, while your spouse might have moved on to gainful employment. Since continuing to pay the spousal support you initially arranged could cause you immense financial hardship, you may choose to go back to court to change your agreement.

Likewise, child support arrangements may change as parental income or custody arrangements change. Suppose, for example, that immediately after the divorce, the stay-at-home parent was awarded primary custody and considerably more parenting time than the other parent. The wage-earning parent might have had to pay considerable child support at that time. Later, however, the child might decide to move in with the other parent: either gradually spending more time with that parent, or actually shifting his primary residence to that location. That parent might then owe less in child support, or might even receive child support from the other parent, depending on the custody arrangement and the income of both parents. 

Don’t be afraid to revisit those agreements as needed, especially if your circumstances have changed substantially. A lawyer can help you take a look at your current financial arrangements and how they may need to change based on both spouses’ current incomes or how circumstances have changed over time.

Contact an Attorney Today

If you need to divorce an unemployed spouse, or if you need to change support arrangements made when you first divorced an unemployed spouse, we can help. Contact Betsy A. Fischer, LLC today at  504-780-8232 to learn more about how an unemployed spouse can impact your divorce and the support you may have to pay. 

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