Dougherty Tobias Iszard, Northern Virginia Law, P.C.

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Stay-at-home moms who get divorced

The well-publicized divorce of Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos has highlighted the issue of what a Virginia stay-at-home mom should receive in a divorce settlement. In most states, the answer to that question seems fairly obvious because the law requires an equitable distribution of assets. However, only a few states actually distribute assets equally. Even when a woman gives up a promising career to stay at home, it is unlikely that she will receive half of the assets or be granted long-term alimony.

About 25 percent of American mothers voluntarily opt out of the workforce in order to support their husbands and engage more thoroughly with their children. Most Americans support that decision because they believe a baby will receive better care from a mother than from a father. Because of this, it is a foregone conclusion in many cases that the mother is the logical one to stay home among heterosexual couples.

When it comes to dividing assets, opinions vary considerably as to how much a stay-at-home mom should receive. In a Vanderbilt University study, women were more likely to award a larger amount to the stay-at-home mom regardless of her previous occupation or educational level. Although men were somewhat divided on the issue, many indicated they would award a larger settlement to a stay-at-home mom with a higher educational level.

When MacKenzie Bezos' divorce is finalized, she will become the third-richest woman in the world. However, other stay-at-home moms will obviously not not fare so well. To gain a fair and equitable settlement, stay-at-home moms may have to show that their contributions to the marriage are as valuable as those of their husbands. They might want to discuss this matter with their family law attorney prior to entering into settlement negotiations.

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