Taking Action

Get Answers Start Your Divorce Stop Your Divorce Divorce Forms Online Support DivorceDesk

Divorce Tools

Online Divorce Online Negotiation Custody Tracker QDRO Preparation SEE ALL

Info Categories

Contemplating Divorce Children & Divorce Divorce, Dollars & Debt Divorce Laws Divorce Process Divorce Negotiation SEE ALL

State Resources

California Florida Illinois New York Texas SEE ALL

More Information

Articles Checklists Research Center Cases of Interest Dictionary Encyclopedia Encyclopedia (pop-up) Blogs

For Professionals

Generate Clients Free Network Page Submit Articles Case Management Sign In

The Divorce Encyclopedia
Breadwinner and Homemaker

Term Definition Breadwinner and Homemaker - no longer traditional.
Application in Divorce The theory of equitable distribution of property in divorce turns on the idea that both spouses make essentially equal but different contributions during a marriage of any duration. In this routine, the breadwinning husband earns income working full time and the "less employed" homemaker wife works equally hard rearing the children and maintaining the home.

This idealized vision of American family life -- one persistently imprinted on the imagination of many thanks to Ozzie and Harriet and Leave it to Beaver -- increasingly collides with reality.

Courts face divorces where one spouse is both breadwinner and homemaker, where, for example, one spouse idles unproductively while the other wins the bread and maintains the home. The distribution of property in such cases increasingly reflects spousal contributions without regard to traditional (and imagined) gender roles.

In a 2004 Pennsylvania case -- Mercatell v. Mercatell -- where both parties earned equal amounts to time of the divorce, the court nevertheless gave 60 percent of the marital estate to the wife, who, during the marriage, had worked two and three jobs during the nineteen years of a childless marriage while the husband lost some 14 jobs and "used his money to buy adult toys."

A significant number of cases unequally divide the marital estate in favor of the wife when the husband pursed idleness or "underemployment" during the marriage.

In a 2000 Massachusetts case -- Williams v. Massa -- a trial court awarded 75 percent of the marital estate to a diligent husband whose nonworking wife "inexplicably avoided the household tasks she was intended do" and who spent $6,000 a month on what was described as "recreational shopping." Her only "consistent homemaking contribution" -- doing the laundry -- apparently failed to much impress the court.

In short, when one spouse, husband or wife, appears to assume a lion’s share of the breadwinnerand homemaker duties, courts appropriately divide the marital estates to reflect that inequality of contribution.

See also Imputed Income.

Add the Divorce Encyclopedia
to Your Website

The Research Center

Give Our Research Center a Try. Gain access to the same research material that lawyers often use to establish and win divorce cases. This material consists of legal journal articles and case explanation/analysis documents on a wide range of topics. If you think your situation is unique, your answers will most likely be here. In order to gain access to this area, you must establish an account, but you can search the documents before deciding.

The Divorce Source Difference

Since February 1st, 1997 (when we initially launched Divorcesource.com) we have helped millions of people contemplating or experiencing divorce. The reason we have been able to reach so many people is because we have made it a priority to listen to our customers. We have built a trust by listening and delivering what the customer needs, rather than what we think they want. This is the Divorce Source difference.

Easily Connect With a Lawyer or Mediator
Have Divorce Professionals from Your Area Contact You!
Enter Your Zip Code:

Custody Scheduling and Tracking

Easily Connect With a Lawyer or Mediator
Have Divorce Professionals from Your Area Contact You!
Enter Your Zip Code:


Start Your Divorce File for Divorce


Settle Your Divorce Negotiate Your Divorce


Track Child Custody Track Custody & Visitation

Guarantee Official PayPal Seal Facebook Twitter Versign Secure Site