When a couple heads towards divorce and one party was the stay-at-home parent or homemaker, the courts take into consideration the non-monetary contributions to the home when considering things like alimony, distribution of property, and determining earning capacity. In Illinois, protections are in place to ensure the stay-at-home spouse is able to return to the workforce and succeed after the divorce is final.
How a Homemaker Contributes to Household Finances
In a marriage where one spouse works and one stays home, the spouse that stays home (homemaker) generally provides needed support for the working spouse (breadwinner). The homemaker often cooks the meals, takes children to their activities and appointments, and keeps the housework up-to-date, so the breadwinner can focus on his or her career. The role of the homemaker has tremendous value, as it prevents the need to pay for daycare and allows the breadwinner to push for career advancement opportunities.
How Illinois Courts Weigh Homemaker Contribution
In Illinois, the courts do not follow a particular formula to determine what a spouse’s contribution to the marital income was when the spouse served as the homemaker. Instead, the courts will weigh the household services and child-raising tasks the homemaker spouse performed, looking at each case individually to determine the homemaker’s contribution. If the homemaker, with the help of a family law attorney, can demonstrate that these actions supported the breadwinner, then the homemaker contribution will typically be high.
In addition, the courts will consider the length of the marriage before the divorce proceedings began. In longer marriages, Illinois courts often weigh the spouses’ contributions more equally.
However, if the courts find that one spouse was the breadwinner and also performed most child-rearing and household activities, then the stay-at-home spouse’s contributions will be smaller. If the homemaker was wasteful of the income during the marriage, then the contributions could also be smaller.
How Homemaker Contributions Affect Divorce Proceedings
Once the courts determine the level of homemaker contribution, alimony and asset division starts. Alimony provides funds from the breadwinner that the homemaker can use to transition back into working life. A higher homemaker contribution could lead to higher alimony.
The homemaker contribution also impacts how the property is divided because the breadwinner cannot claim sole ownership of the property. Property will be divided based on the level of contributions the court awarded to the homemaker.