The turn of the 21st century brought about progressive changes in the way we view stay at home moms and dads, particularly the ones who gave up exciting or lucrative careers. In fact, making the choice to stay home was seen as empowering, considering the expectations placed on both men and women to achieve professional success. Many of these spouses do return to the workforce once their children are older, and accept the fact that they have to start from the bottom, regardless of their position and/or salary at their previous job.
Working for much less than you're worth may not be a problem when you're married, but it can be a frightening prospect for those in the middle of a divorce. These individuals are often faced with the dilemma of returning to work for much less pay and reduced alimony, or staying home and receiving alimony payments that are far greater than what they can earn. The latter seems quite tempting, especially in this job market, which may or may not have positions that are suited to your education and job skills. You may even be forced to look into other career options, which may include going back to school while interning or working for minimum wage.
So, what's the downside to getting your maximum support amount? First, there's the reality that it's not likely to last, since permanent alimony is becoming increasingly rare in New Jersey. In fact, the majority of alimony awards are based on the duration of the marriage, especially for marriages lasting less than 10 years. Short of extreme circumstances such as terminal illness or permanent disability, its is generally expected that supported spouses will work towards becoming self-sufficient. Thus, while that money looks good now, you'll need to have a back up plan for when it ends or gets reduced, or when you're ready to move onto a new marriage/ relationship.
Then, there's the psychological damage from being tied to your ex in a very tangible manner. Regardless of your divorce decree, receiving a monthly support check from someone is still a way for them to have power over you in some form or another. Granted, you could have parted on good terms, but the point of a divorce is to officially dissolve the bonds of marriage. This is hard to achieve when you're still dependent on that person for most of your living expenses, year after year.
Ultimately, the decision of if and when to return to work depends on numerous personal factors, which you should discuss with an experienced divorce attorney. Your may also have to let go of preconceived notions about the lifestyle you should live, based on what you had during the marriage. An attorney can help you reach a fair balance that will help you live a decent quality of life, while working towards financial independence. For more information on your alimony rights and legal options, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.