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Study looks at attitudes toward stay-at-home mothers in divorce

More than 25% of American mothers with kids younger than 18 do not work outside the home. For fathers, that figure is 7%. When stay-at-home mothers in Virginia get divorced, they are entitled to an equitable amount of marital assets. This raises an issue about how to value caregiving compared to being the family breadwinner.

One study conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University looked at attitudes about stay-at-home mothers and division of property during divorce. Researchers created a scenario in which a couple was married for 17 years, 12 of which the wife spent staying at home with their children. The husband filed for divorce in this scenario. However, the 3,000 participants were given different details. The educational level of the woman varied as well as the couple's professions and assets. Researchers found that while both men and women recognized the value of caregiving, women tended to give the woman a larger share of the assets. Furthermore, men tended to award more assets if the woman had more education. Women awarded assets regardless of the educational level of the wife.

It is not unusual for women who do not work outside of the home to get a smaller share of the assets in these equitable arrangements. However, many would argue that the wives' contributions allow the men to achieve the level of professional success they have and that they deserve an equal share.

Both the main breadwinner and the stay-at-home spouse may be concerned about financial arrangements and property division in a divorce. While the breadwinner could be concerned about spousal and child support payments, the other spouse may be worried about how to survive financially. Divorce does not always mean going into litigation. In some cases, spouses may be able to negotiate an agreement about these issues and child custody with the help of their attorneys.

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