What is a Non-working Spouse entitled to in a Divorce? - Zukerman Law

What is a Non-working Spouse entitled to in a Divorce?

Divorce can be a complex and emotionally charged experience, especially for non-working spouses. Many non-working spouses worry about their financial security after a divorce, particularly if they haven’t been employed outside the home for an extended period.
The good news is, even without a traditional paycheck, non-working spouses have rights when it comes to divorce settlements.
This blog will explore what non-working spouses are entitled to in a divorce, from spousal support to a fair share of marital assets. By understanding your rights and seeking legal guidance, you can navigate the divorce process with confidence and ensure a secure future for yourself.

What are the Legal Rights of a Non-working Spouse?

What are the Legal Rights of a Non-working Spouse?

The legal rights of a non-working spouse in a divorce vary by jurisdiction and specific circumstances, but some common considerations apply.
Laws differ by region, so consulting a qualified attorney in your area for personalized advice is essential. Generally, non-working spouses might have the following legal rights during a divorce:

  • Spousal Support or Alimony: Non-working spouses may receive financial assistance from the working spouse if they have become financially dependent during the marriage.
  • Property Division: Marital property is often divided equitably or equally. Non-working spouses might still be entitled to a fair share of marital assets even if they didn’t contribute financially.
  • Child Support: If the non-working spouse is the primary caregiver, they may be entitled to child support from the working spouse to cover child-rearing costs.
  • Child Custody and Visitation: Non-working parents have the right to seek custody or visitation based on the children’s best interests.
  • Divorce laws are complex and vary widely. Factors such as marriage length, living standards, and household contributions can influence rights. Seeking legal advice from a qualified attorney is crucial to understand and protect your rights during a divorce.
The Entitlements of a Non-working Spouse in a Divorce

The Entitlements of a Non-working Spouse in a Divorce

The entitlements of a non-working spouse in a divorce can vary based on the jurisdiction’s laws and the specific circumstances of the marriage. However, some common considerations include:

Community Property States

In community property states, marital property is split equally between spouses. A non-working spouse is entitled to half of all marital assets, including retirement funds, property, and pensions. Marital debt is also divided equally between spouses. Separate property, such as assets obtained before the marriage or through gifts or inheritance, is not divided.
If the non-working spouse receives the family home, they may be required to pay the mortgage and other property-related expenses. Additionally, the non-working spouse may qualify for spousal support, also known as alimony or maintenance, which helps maintain their quality of life after the divorce.

Child Support

The non-working spouse has the same right to child support as the working spouse. Child support is calculated based on various factors, including both spouses’ income, custody arrangement, and the number of children. The court determines the amount of child support the working spouse must pay to the non-working spouse.
Child support payments can be used for child-related expenses such as clothing, education, food, and medical care. It is important to note that child support is intended for the children’s benefit, not the non-working spouse. Therefore, the non-working spouse must use child support payments wisely and in the children’s best interests.
If the non-working spouse is granted child custody, the working spouse typically pays higher child support. Conversely, if the working spouse gets child custody, the non-working spouse usually pays less. The court considers the custody arrangement when determining child support payments.
Both spouses should be aware of their financial responsibilities regarding child support. They should work together to develop a budget and financial plan that includes child support payments.

Note: Consulting a financial expert can be beneficial to ensure that financial decisions are made in the best interests of everyone involved. At Zukerman Law Group, we understand the unique challenges faced by non-working spouses in divorce. Let our expertise work for you. Schedule a consultation today to discuss your case and see how we can help.

Spousal Support and Alimony

One of the major financial challenges following a divorce is spousal support or alimony. After the divorce is finalized, one spouse provides financial assistance to the other. Spousal support helps the non-working or lower-earning spouse maintain their living standard from the marriage.
The amount and duration of spousal support are determined by various factors, including the length of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, each spouse’s earning capacity, and the needs of the receiving spouse. Sometimes, the court may mandate a lump sum payment instead of periodic payments.
A financial plan is necessary to determine the appropriate amount of spousal support and the method of payment. A financial expert can help the couple develop a budget that considers the needs of both spouses and any children involved. It is also important to consider the tax implications of spousal support payments.
Making well-informed decisions about spousal support is crucial. Both spouses should understand their financial situation and work together to create a mutually beneficial plan. If the couple cannot agree on spousal support, the judge will decide based on the evidence presented.

Debts and Assets

In a divorce, it is crucial to distinguish between marital and separate property. Separate property includes assets and debts acquired before marriage or through gifts or inheritance, while marital property covers those obtained during the marriage.
Fair asset valuation is essential, involving real estate, pensions, 401(k)s, IRAs, and other joint assets, often requiring appraisers or financial experts.
Debts, including mortgages and credit card debt, must also be divided. Depending on income and earning potential, one spouse may take on a larger share of the debt.
A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) may be needed to distribute assets like pensions or retirement accounts, allowing tax-free transfers between spouses.


Divorce can be a difficult time, but understanding your rights as a non-working spouse empowers you to navigate the process with confidence. Remember, your contributions to the marriage, both financial and non-financial, are valuable and deserve to be recognized in your divorce settlement. Don’t hesitate to seek legal guidance from a qualified family law attorney experienced in advocating for non-working spouses. Zukerman Law Group has a strong track record of achieving successful outcomes for our clients. We are here to support you and ensure you receive a fair and equitable settlement.


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Stuart Zukerman

Stuart Zukerman, a graduate of the University of British Columbia, has over 32 years of experience in litigation with a focus on Family Law, Personal Injury, Wrongful Dismissal claims, and Collaborative Divorce & Mediation. He has extensive trial experience in divorce, child custody, spousal support, asset division, and ICBC injury claims. As an accredited Family Law Mediator, he helps resolve disputes without court intervention. Stuart has also authored papers on family law and lectured at CLE courses.