Dealing with a divorce can be difficult for any family. As a stay-at-home mom, however, you may worry more than most about what your life might look like post-divorce. You may have forfeited an education or career to care for children, relying on your spouse for financial support. Now, you may lose this support, on top of dealing with expensive divorce fees and court costs. Luckily, Colorado law looks out for stay-at-home moms and other divorcees in financial binds.
The Right to Hire an Attorney
If you have a complicated divorce, hire an attorney to help you work through your case. As a stay-at-home mom, your divorce case will most likely involve complicated matters that deserve legal attention, such as spousal support and child custody. A Fort Collins family lawyer can protect your rights from the beginning, taking over communications with your ex-spouse and his or her attorney. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, ask about including your legal fees as part of a divorce settlement. Many lawyers will work with you to arrange a payment plan that works for your family.
The Right to Fight for Primary Custody
The courts in Colorado will not automatically award you child custody, even as the stay-at-home parent. However, this fact will most likely work in your favor during custody negotiations. First, you and your spouse will have the opportunity to work together to create your own parenting plan. This plan will include custody, parenting time and parental responsibilities. If you can, work with your spouse during mediation to compromise on child custody matters. That way, you can both avoid surprises that may occur if your case goes to court.
If you and your spouse cannot work out a custody arrangement, use an attorney to help you fight for primary custody. An attorney can help you prove to a judge that you are the right choice with evidence such as your close relationship with the children, your role as the primary caregiver, their emotional bond to you and other factors. Your children will not have a say in custody unless they are old enough to give their opinion. In that case, a judge may consider what your children have to say. Ultimately, the judge will rule on a custody matter based on the best interests of your children.
The Right to Seek Child Support
As a stay-at-home mom, you will most likely be eligible for a child support order if the courts grant you primary custody. Colorado’s child support laws offer money in monthly installments or lump sums to help the primary parent pay for the care and support of children. Your spouse may owe you child support based on both parties’ incomes, education, jobs and parental rights. The courts may award child support if it is reasonably necessary to give children the same quality of life they had before the divorce. A child support order will typically last until the child turns 18 unless the child is still in high school or has a disability.
The Right to Request Spousal Support
Spousal support, or spousal maintenance, is a monetary award the courts may grant one spouse in circumstances of financial need. Spousal support is not a guarantee, even as a stay-at-home mom with little to no income. A judge in Colorado will only award spousal support if you exhibit financial need and if your ex-spouse has the means to pay the award. The amount and duration of the award, if any, will depend on your situation.
Colorado law uses the length of the marriage to determine how long spousal support will last. The law has a long list outlining how many months a spouse may receive support. For a marriage lasting 5 years, for example, the support order will last 21 months. The longer your marriage, the longer you could receive spousal support. You should use the months in which you receive spousal maintenance to get an education or job training that will help you find a position to support yourself and your children on your own. An experienced and local lawyer could maximize your odds of gaining spousal support during a divorce case.