My husband and I will both finish graduate school this year — he in [high-earning field], me in law. I have a job lined up to clerk next year, but after that, I’d like to have kids, and I’d like to stay home — either full or part time — to raise them.

My problem is this: I’m fine with sacrificing the lost income (and the years worked toward a promotion, the raises that I’d earn, and the subsequent raises that follow after that, the retirement contributions, health insurance, etc. etc.) but I’m not okay with bearing the brunt of our choice for me to stay at home in case of a divorce. It doesn’t seem fair to me that if I take five years off to have kids, we could later get divorced, and he will continue making six figures after he has enjoyed the benefit of having a stay at home wife, while the statistics — both about the legal field and about women — show that I will have a hard time getting a job, let alone a well paying one. And this will be because I took the time off to raise our kids.

Maybe the distinction I’m making between the lost income and the shared cost of childbearing is nebulous — in the case of divorce, I wouldn’t want my husband to have to pay me whatever I would have earned as a working lawyer in those years — I/we already chose to sacrifice that. Instead, I want him to share with me the financial burden I will bear for having made that choice. I don’t know how to calculate that cost — maybe I’ll have to hire a mathematician.

I’ve heard some suggest that women in my position should make a legal contract that would dictate how assets will be divided in case of divorce, that would somehow equalize partners’ positions. Do you know anything about this, or have any links to any such sample contracts? Do you know how to calculate the shared cost of the decision to stay home? I’m having a VERY hard time finding any good information about this online.

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2 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    First of all, community property states give you half of whatever your husband earned during the time you were raising kids — or whatever is left of what he earned when you divorce. If that’s not enough for you, you can take a page out of Katie Holme’s book: She has Tom Cruise paying her a flat fee of about $10 million for each child she has with him.

    That said, you have way bigger problems than loss of income if you divorce when your kid is five. Who is going to continue staying home to raise him? Probably you, because you care more. And you will not find a part-time job when you have not been in the workforce for ten years to prove yourself. I mean, every mom in the world wants a part-time job.

    So when you have a baby you essentially agree to screw your earning potential and screw your career potential. You are doing that now – this second – when you understand that being home for your kid means much more to you than to your husband. So if you are mostly concerned about the financial fairness of this all, don’t have a kid.

    And if you think the emotional impact of divorce is your earning potential, you’re nuts. The percentage of undergrads at Harvard with divorced parents is less than 2%. This is because kids are at a huge disadvantage when their parents get a divorce. I am not saying that your kid needs to go to Harvard, I am saying you misunderstand the impact of divorce on kids. It is not financial: it’s emotional. Read Judith Wallterstein’s book on divorce.

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/0786886161/?tag=brazecaree-20

    It’s a 25-year-study on how divorce destroys kids. The primary reason for the emotional destruction is that a kid needs a single home to live in. Divorce parents each get their own home and the kids’ perception is not that he has two homes, it’s that he has no home.

    Your kid doesn’t need your recovered lost income. Your kid needs two parents. Start focusing as much attention on keeping your marriage together as you are focusing on dissolving it.

    Penelope

  2. Sadya
    Sadya says:

    I get that the lady in question is a lawyer but doesnt the fact that she’s asking abt a divorce a signal that something is amiss in her situation right now. If you are thinking about divorce even before having a kid, then maybe you should take a really hard good look at your situation. Unhappy marriages are equally if not more harmful on kids.

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