Choosing to become a stay-at-home parent is an admirable decision, but it is one that requires special consideration. Leaving a lucrative or promising career to care for your children fulltime impacts your family financially, and can spell disaster if your marriage were to end in a divorce.
Becoming a Stay-at-Home Parent
People become stay-at-home parents for a variety of reasons, and the role is no longer gender specific. Common examples of why a person will choose to leave their career to make child rearing their primary focus include:
- Sudden unemployment
- Rising daycare or nanny costs
- Expectation to be a stay-at-home parent
- Unable to manage work and family demands
- Financial stability as a result of their spouse’s income
Regardless of why you choose to become a stay-at-home mom or dad, it is important to realize that you and your spouse are no longer on a level playing field. Your partner will bear the burden of having to support your family financially, while you care for the home and children. A postnuptial agreement can help protect you in case you ever find yourself in the midst of a divorce or child custody battle.
The Downside to Stay-at-Home Parenting
Being a stay-at-home parent can be an incredibly rewarding experience. You get the opportunity to nurture your children, watch them reach milestones, and create lasting memories. It can be exhausting and frustrating, but many parents say they would do it again in a heartbeat.
That being said, parents who quit their jobs often face a very hard time trying to reenter the workforce once their children no longer require constant care. Professional contacts and connections are lost, networking opportunities are forfeited, and resumes will have large gaps with no work experience. Career related skills may even decline, unless you spend the time to keep up with technology, social media, and other specific field related news and trends.
It is important to mention that just because you were making $60,000 per year when you quit your job to raise children, it doesn’t mean you will be able to make the same (or more) when you decide to return to work. You may not even be able to be rehired in the same level or position. It is likely you will earn less, and have to accept a lower level position, after an extended period of unemployment.
A postnuptial agreement works in the same capacity as a prenuptial agreement, but it is drafted and signed after a couple is already married. These agreements can specify how money, property, and parenting time will be divided in the event of a divorce, as well as stipulations regarding alimony. In addition to these general items, postnupts for stay-at-home parents can also include:
- Timeline for when the stay-at-home parent shall return to work
- The amount of monies to be paid in divorce, to make up for loss of income
- The guarantee that the stay-at-home parent’s financial needs are met
Jeff Landers, Forbes contributor and financial divorce expert, is a strong proponent of postnuptial agreements for stay-at-home parents. Landers encourages couples to treat the postnup as a business contract, and not to let their emotions influence the process. Leaving your career behind to become a fulltime stay-at-home mom or dad is like starting a new job. You wouldn’t choose to embark on a new professional path without ensuring you had financial security, so you should do the same before you take on the role of full time parent.
Work with Your Spouse
Discuss the idea of a postnuptial agreement with your partner. You two need to work as a team in order to develop a fair agreement. It is best to address financial matters while parties are still in each other’s good graces, since the working parent is more likely to make sure his partner is protected financially.
While preparing the postnup, it is recommended you take into consideration the amount of income you will lose, as well as how much time you intend to stay home. Will you reenter the workforce once your child or children reach middle school? Discussing the financial aspects of your marriage needs to be a top priority before you take the plunge and become a stay-at-home parent.
The Power of a Lawyer
In order for a postnuptial agreement to be considered valid during a divorce case, each spouse must retain separate attorneys to either draft or review the document. Choosing to become a stay-at-home parent is admirable, but you need to be smart about it and make sure you are protected. For more information on the benefit of having a solid postnuptial agreement, contact the law firm of Brian D. Perskin & Associates P.C. to schedule a free consultation.