Did Wife Need to Stay Home for 20 Years to Raise Kids?
In a 2018 case called Zomparelli v. Conforti, the divorcing couple had gone to court 15 years earlier, in 2003, to address spousal support. At that time, a judge had ordered the husband to pay the wife monthly support, reviewable after a few years, and noted the wife was a “capable person and could succeed at most forms of employment she seeks if she were to set her mind to it.”
After almost 15 years of paying, the husband returned to court to have his spousal support obligations discontinued.
The wife countered with various arguments to have it extended further. Among them was the claim that, career-wise, she suffered economic disadvantage during the marriage because she could never work full-time because of her child care responsibilities to their two children. The court explained her argument:
Spousal Support Arising from Post-Separation Child Care Responsibilities
Notwithstanding [the prior court’s] findings about her competency and ability to obtain a job, Ms. Conforti has not obtained full-time employment. She has worked part time on occasion, but insists that her time and effort was largely taken up by caring for her children. When cross examining Mr. Zomparelli, she suggested that she had to care for children after the trial up until they turned age 23 because of Mr. Zomparelli’s failure to assist her with their upbringing. She said that because of her childcare responsibilities, which only ended recently, she was unable to return the workforce. She says that she is at a disadvantage as a result, for which she should be compensated in spousal support.
The husband pointed out that when the couple first separated in 2003, the children were 14 and 12. They were now in their 20s, so there was no impediment to the wife becoming self-sufficient and moving on with her career. The court described the husband’s position this way:
Mr. Zomparelli says that he should no longer be made to pay spousal support. He says that there is no reason why Ms. Conforti should not be self-sufficient at this point in time, and points out that he has paid spousal support longer he was married to the [wife]. He notes that the children are no longer dependent on their parents, and says that Ms. Conforti has made no reasonable effort to become self-sufficient since [the judge’s earlier] order of April 17, 2003. He says that it is time that spousal support come to an end.
The court agreed. It said that the wife had failed to explain why her childcare responsibilities after 2003 prevented her from becoming self-sufficient. It echoed the earlier judge’s conclusion that she had put “roadblocks in the way of her self-sufficiency, insisting on caring for the children full time when they did not need this level of attention as they got older.” The court elaborated:
These parties separated in 2000. By 2003, when the spousal support award was made of $1,300 per month, the children were old enough to allow Ms. Conforti to go out into the workforce. She was not over 50 years of age at that point, but, as pointed out by [the previous judge], a perfectly capable 40-year-old woman. She continues to be capable … there is no impediment to Ms. Conforti working full time, and she is managing university well, achieving an “A” average. [The prior judge] allowed for support to allow Ms. Conforti to become self-sufficient and I have no evidence of any continuing disadvantage resulting from the marriage which would prevent her from doing so; any disadvantages to her may very well result from decisions made by Ms. Conforti herself since the trial.
I accept that Ms. Conforti has applied for full-time work after separation, but other than saying that she was blacklisted (and I am uncertain what she meant by that and she did not state how she was blacklisted or who had blacklisted her), she did not explain why she could not obtain employment other than her age and time outside of the workforce. …
… As well, it is unreasonable for Ms. Conforti to insist that she needed to care for the children full time, or that her care for teenaged children prevented her from exploring career opportunities or in obtaining full-time employment of some sort. I do not find that, 17 years after the parties separated, that her inability to find work is related to her child-caring role within the marriage which was, after all, of medium length only.
For the full text of the decision, see: