Should I Wait for My Husband to be Ordered to Pay Spousal Support Before I Get a Job?

I always try to tread carefully when I’m talking about getting a job after divorce. Particularly for women who decided to stay at home to care for their children during the marriage, this is a difficult conversation. It’s also difficult for women who have worked part-time, or deliberately chose to minimize their own professional career for the sake of the family.

The judges know that you can’t just jump start a career at any age. They also understand that, if you’ve been out of the workforce for a longer period of time, the skills and training you once had is much less relevant than it is now. These are all considerations that the judge would take into account if he were deciding how much support to award to you, and you can be sure that, if your lawyer is negotiating a separation agreement on your behalf, these points will be discussed at length.

One of the most common questions I get from women who are facing the possibility of going back to work is, “If I get a job too soon, will it affect my spousal support?” The short answer is yes. Support is calculated based on income and, if you are receiving an income, it will affect how much support your husband will have to pay.

However, not getting a job is probably still not an option for a number of reasons. For one thing, support guidelines are not overly generous, and you will probably soon find that you need an extra source of income to supplement and live at the level to which you have grown accustomed. If you try to wait your husband out and wait to get a job until after he has been ordered to pay you a certain level of support (which may or may not be modifiable anyway after you start receiving a paycheck—check back to read my blog tomorrow!), you may find that you are up a creek without a paddle.

Not only that, but judges are often irritated by women who resist going to work and earning income for themselves when they are otherwise fully capable. While it may take some training, additional education, or other support for you to get where you should be professionally, the judge is much more inclined to have sympathy for you if you give the impression that you are doing everything you can to support yourself. Recent case law has shown an increasing amount of frustration with women who refuse to get a job after even long term marriages. You will have more sympathy from the judge if you make an effort to support yourself.

I understand the feeling that your husband should support you after your marriage. Regardless of how things worked out, you made serious sacrifices for the sake of the family that have hindered you professionally. It’s difficult to go back to work after a long period of time out of the workforce. Even if you worked part time during the marriage, finding full time employment with the benefits you need can be a little tricky.

Ultimately, you are often much better served if you make a serious effort to support yourself, regardless of what you hope the judge will award you in your divorce case. Concentrate on the positives: you will have to depend on him for less, you won’t be at the mercy of his game-playing (like, if he decides to pay you consistently later and later each month), and you’ll feel a sense of empowerment from having earned the income yourself. In many cases, spousal support is still necessary. It may sound counter-intuitive, but you build your strongest case for support by attempting to support yourself.

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