Divorcing a Husband Who Won’t Work

Divorcing due to unemployment is one of the most common reasons spouses file for marital separation in the United States. Divorce is much more common when the husband won’t work compared to the wife being unemployed. It makes no difference whether the husband is voluntarily or involuntarily out of work. In either case, divorcing a husband with no job is 33 percent more likely than divorcing a husband that is in full-time employment.

If you are looking to end your marriage and divorce an unemployed husband, it is important to understand the legal implications this has on child support, alimony, and property distribution. 

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Legal Implications of Divorcing an Unemployed Husband

When divorcing a husband with no job, there are a few legal implications to consider. These typically center around the distribution of property belonging to the married couple. The employment status of the husband can also affect child support benefits and rights to receiving alimony. Usually, the courts will look at the reason for unemployment when deciding how their job status affects these factors. Here is a closer look at each and what you can expect.

Also read:10 Steps to Getting a Divorce in California

Despite having a well-established divorce law that dates back to 1851, California has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country....

1. Child Support

All husbands must pay child support following a divorce if you are the custodial parent. This is an obligation for all fathers regardless of their employment status; divorcing a husband with no job will not change your rights to receive child support. However, the husband’s employment status will impact the amount of child support owed to the custodial parent. Their child support payments will usually be substantially reduced to match their employment status.

When the husband is involuntarily unemployed and thus eligible for unemployment benefits, you can set up that the child support payment can automatically deduct from their unemployment wages. However, when the husband won’t work out of choice, the courts will create an imputed income. This is what they believe the father could or should be earning if they were in full-time employment. The courts will then use this imputed income to calculate the child support payments the husband owes.

Moreover, if there is already a child support order in place, the father must continue to make the payments detailed in the agreement even if he becomes unemployed. Missed payments will need to be paid back at a later date, often with interest. Continued missed payments could result in fines or jail time. If the husband cannot make the payments, he may wish to submit a petition for the modification of the existing order to reduce the payments. The courts typically only accept changes to child support payments if the husband is involuntarily unemployed.

2. Spousal Support/Alimony

In most divorces, the wife receives spousal support. However, this is not necessarily the case if you are divorcing a husband with no job and the wife must pay alimony to the husband. Every U.S. state has its own laws governing spousal support payments so it is best to speak with a family lawyer near you for more advice. However, there are two main types of alimony the court might order you to pay:

·        Temporary Spousal Support: You must pay temporary spousal support when you divorce an unemployed husband. After the divorce proceedings are finalized, this type of spousal support can stop.

·        Long-Term Alimony: Long-term alimony is for after the couple legally separates. For example, a judge may issue alimony payments so the husband can go back to school or learn a trade to start a career of his own. The payment can terminate once the recipient has a career of their own. If your husband won’t work out of choice, this can be used as a mitigating (less severe) factor so you don’t need to pay long-term alimony.

3. Distribution of Property

All states in the U.S. are either (1) community property states or (2) equitable distribution states. How property division applies when divorcing a husband with no job depends on which state you reside in:

·        Community Property States: In community property states, all property acquired during a marriage is equally owned by both spouses regardless of who paid for it. Even if you divorce an unemployed husband, all property will be split equally between both of you. The employed wife may have paid all the funds for acquiring the property, but it belongs to both spouses according to the law and divides equally.

·        Equitable Distribution States: In contrast to community property states, the property is divided based on the equity in equitable distribution states, consequently not always resulting in a 50/50 split. All but nine of the U.S. states fall into this category. Factors considered when calculating a fair property division include monetary and non-monetary contributions of the husband or disabilities. For example, husbands that can’t work may be granted a larger portion of the property.

4. Legal Expenses of Divorce

Hiring a family lawyer to help you through the divorce process does cost money. When divorcing a husband with no job, this can work in the wife’s favor. The unemployed husband will be unlikely to afford good legal representation, if any. This can mean the wife, with the help of an experienced attorney, is more likely to get her request granted throughout the divorce process for a favorable settlement agreement.

How to Divorce a Husband Who Won’t Work

When your husband won’t work and you want to file for a divorce, there are two main options available. You can either (1) complete divorce papers and file for a divorce yourself, or (2) appoint a divorce attorney to complete the paperwork on your behalf and guide you through the legal process.

If the separation is amicable and you think the divorce will go through smoothly, divorcing a husband with no job without legal support can help to save costs. However, if the husband is not happy with your decision to file for divorce, things can get messy. It is advisable to appoint an attorney in these cases so you achieve the best settlement. In particular, consider hiring a lawyer if there are children involved since this can impact child custody and child support decisions.


Can I divorce my husband for not working?

Yes. You can divorce your husband for not working. In the U.S., you can legally divorce your spouse for any reason that you are unhappy in your marriage.

What is a non-working spouse entitled to in a divorce?

A non-working spouse is entitled to receive alimony payments from their ex-spouse and can acquire up to 50 percent of property. However, this depends largely on whether they are voluntarily or involuntarily unemployed. Whether or not the couple has agreed that the husband will be a stay-at-home husband will also impact what they’re entitled to.

Do I have to pay alimony if my husband refuses to work?

If your husband won’t work out of choice, it is unlikely that the courts require you to pay alimony. In other cases, the courts will drastically reduce spousal support. 

Does the wife get alimony if this husband is unemployed?

No. According to U.S. law, the court awards alimony to the person who is financially dependent on their spouse during the marriage. If the husband isn’t working and the wife is, the wife will not get spousal support.

Article by Mariia Synytska

Mariia Synytska is Content Lead at Lawrina, a legal portal that projects innovation in law. Mariia manages the content on the website, takes interviews with lawyers and law experts, and looks for the interesting topics for Lawrina's audience. If you would like to be a blogger for Lawrina, you can contact Mariia for all the details via email m.synytska@lawrina.com.

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