Can a Judge Order a Stay-at-Home Parent to Find Employment?

Although not as common now-a-days, there are still a good percentage of cases where one spouse is the bread winner while the other party stays at home with the children.  In this scenario, the stay-at-home parent usually will request maintenance in order to continue staying at home with the children, while the bread-winner will request that the stay-at-home parent be ordered to find employment.

Each case is different and will depend on the judge assigned to your case.  Usually at the start of the case, a judge will order the bread winner to continue to deposit his/her check into the a joint account and maintain the status quo until a support order is entered.  However, at some point a judge will assess that stay-at-home parent’s ability to work.  If the children are still very young and not school age, a judge is likely not going to order the stay-at-home parent to find full-time employment.  If a judge does order the parent to find employment, it would require more expenses in daycare which may be more expensive for the breadwinner.

If the children are of school-age, however, there should be no reason why that parent does not have some at least a part-time job. In addition, if that party has a college degree, the judge may impute some income to that parent even if he/she is not employed.  As such, it would make sense to have a job so that the accurate income is taken into account in the final determination for maintenance.

Finally, as a practical matter, maintenance awards are not always permanent and can run out sooner than expected.  The breadwinner may lose his job, pass away, or the stay-at-home parent may find love again and decide to cohabitate with a love interest.  In either of these scenarios, that stay-at-home parent’s financial stability is gone.  As a result, even if you are awarded maintenance, it is advisable that you take this opportunity to get back on your feet as soon as possible.  If anything, it will give that parent an escape for the stress of being a single parent and the divorce process.  It will also provide that parent with a sense of accomplishment and a confidence-booster.

In conclusion, a judge may or may not order a stay-at-home parent to look for some type of employment.  However, for all the reasons stated above, even if a judge does not order a stay-at-home parent to find employment, it is advisable that you look for a job and attempt to complement your income without relying so much on the maintenance you may or may not receive.

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