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The Divorce Encyclopedia
Homemaker Contributions


Term Definition Homemaker Contributions - consideration of noneconomic contributions.
Application in Divorce Depending upon the jurisdiction, courts consider the noneconomic contributions of a homemaker (usually the wife) in both the award of alimony and the distribution of property. However, the gender of the homemaker does not affect the "recognition of that spouse’s nonmonetary contributions."

Courts increasingly view alimony as a transition, a means of easing a spouse (usually the wife) back in the work force rather than a lifetime subsidy; and for this reason, alimony is either permanent, or long-term, or rehabilitative, or short-term, and it may be paid in one lump sum or in installments. Alimony, both permanent or rehabilitative, can be very important to a nonworking spouse, particularly the full-time wife who raised the children and made the home. Despite the emancipation of women, the career of a husband generally comes first, even in two-career, working-couple marriages. This arrangement, very common despite gains women have made in the work force, puts the wife at a real disadvantage when a marriage fails.

Rehabilitative alimony recognizes the fact one spouse, usually the women whose contributions to the marriage are hard to measure in dollars and cents, may need a bridge to get her back into the. A woman who has been a homemaker many years may need help freshening skills that make her employable, and in the case of older women the market may be indifferent to her and her efforts to find employment. Rehabilitative alimony is intended to help the recipient to become self-supporting. The duration of rehabilitative alimony varies from case to case.

Depending upon the jurisdiction, of course, marital misconduct may be a consideration.

In property distribution, equitable distribution of property affords reasonable protection to homemakers. It recognizes the inherent unfairness of common-law title distribution, which distributed property to the person whose name was on it. "Equating the homemakers contributions with that of the income-producing spouse accords with the basic concepts underlying the doctrine of equitable distribution -- that marriage is a partnership, and that both spouses contribute in different ways. Since the homemaker enables the income-producer to earn, ’the value of homemaker contributions increases in proportion to the increasing value of income production.’"

In cases where the full-time homemaker is older and has "little established earning capacity," courts have approved awards giving women more than half the marital estate.

Some legal commentators have suggested methods for measure the productive value of individuals not employed outside the home. These include the replacement cost approach, which calculates how much it would cost to replace the homemaker on the market with a single housekeeper, or by assigning a dollar value to each of the functions, and the opportunity cost approach, which would put a dollar value on the income producing opportunities lost by being a homemaker.

Most jurisdictions sidestep the problem by simply equating the homemaker’s contributions with those of the income-producing spouse.

See also Alimony; Rehabilitative Alimony.

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