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Can I be compensated in divorce for the housework I do?

by | Mar 5, 2021 | Spousal Support |

A recent news story caught our eye that tried to put a value on housework and how much it’s worth. NBC News reported from Hong Kong, looking at a court case from China that’s getting people talking.

The article noted that it was worth about $4 a day.

Specifically, “a Beijing divorce court, a judge ruled this month that a woman should receive 50,000 yuan (about $7,700) for ‘household labor’ following a split from her husband,” according to the report. The ruling is actually the first under a new civil code provision in China that is meant to strengthen personal rights. It’s being depicted as “a cornerstone of President Xi Jinping’s push to reform the country’s legal system as the code seeks to strengthen personal rights.”

“Where one spouse is burdened with additional duties for raising children, looking after the elderly or assisting the other spouse in his/her work, the said spouse has the right to request compensation upon divorce against the other party,” according to the rule.

The article also noted that “although many welcome the legal recognition of domestic duties as progressive, others are critical of the amount awarded to Wang, noting the high cost of living in Beijing — stating the funds would barely cover the salary of a domestic cleaner or nanny in the capital.”

When one person in a marriage decides to be a stay-at-home parent or work part-time rather than full-time, it’s often a principled choice that has to do with the kind of home that couple wants to provide for a child — or it can also reflect the realities of how much child care costs and what makes the most financial sense for the family.

However, when couples in those situations divorce, child support might address the income discrepancy between the divorcing parties to a degree, but maybe not to a degree that each party would perceive as fair — especially when you factor in the hours of work that go into maintaining a household and what that’s worth, as the Chinese court was looking to do.

That’s where spousal support comes in, and it’s a topic we’ve written on from time to time. Though you may know it as “alimony,” it’s actually called spousal support, and it indirectly looks to award value to housework. As we wrote in an earlier blog article, “It’s intended for spouses who didn’t work or were unable to work during a marriage to have support while making a transition to working as a single person.

Spousal maintenance requirements in the Texas Family Code largely depend on how long a couple was married prior to divorce. For couples married 10 to 20 years, the spousal maintenance award may not remain in effect for more than five years; for those married 20 to 30 years, the spousal maintenance award may not remain in effect for more than seven years; for those married 30 years or more, the spousal maintenance award may not remain in effect for more than 10 years. It’s also possible to apply spousal maintenance to marriages less than 10 years if family violence is involved.

But it also depends on circumstances for the divorcing couple — if each person has full-time employment with good salaries, it’s less likely that spousal support will be awarded in a divorce case than if one party was a stay-at-home parent and realistically needs time to transition into the workplace.

We also noted, according to the Texas Family Code, “the maximum amount that can be awarded is the lesser of $5,000 or 20 percent of the contributing spouse’s average monthly gross income – which can, when combined with child support, add up to a substantial portion of the payer’s income.”

But we also noted that a person has a better chance of securing spousal support if there’s a plan mapped out for how that person will use the spousal support — so, someone planning to enroll in a coding course and looking for work in the tech sector following completion of that course likely stands a better chance than a person who has no set plan in place for transitioning to a career.

It’s also worth noting why we said “person” instead of “woman” in the previous paragraph: Because women can be responsible for paying spousal support, something that we’ve also written about in a past blog article.

Even if you’re not technically eligible for spousal support, you may be able to still find some sort of compensation for work you’ve done to keep a household running. It may not be quite what you think it is, though; it might be something worked out in an alternative dispute resolution like collaborative divorce or mediation.

If you have an idea of what you think your housework is worth, and you want to see how your divorce can compensate you fairly, plan an initial consultation with the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance. We can discuss what’s possible, including whether you’re eligible for spousal support, and if not, what might be possible.