Think about this concept. A couple separates. Wife makes more than Husband. Her income will enable her to live at a higher standard of living post-divorce than his will. The court should give him spousal support, should it not? Here’s another scenario: Wife earns the income for the family; husband is a highly educated and formerly successful corporate executive who quit work so that he could stay home with the children. They split up. He wants support. Does he get it?
What is your gut reaction when you ask yourself these questions? Is there an automatic response saying “yes” to both hypotheticals or does something seem fundamentally wrong about the woman paying support to the man? Does your answer turn on your own gender?
You may find it of interest that in the modern age of two-income families and successful women breadwinners, only 3 percent of the recipients of what is traditionally known as “alimony” are men. At the same time, 40 percent of households in the United States are headed by female breadwinners. Isn’t there something wrong with this picture? While in the last 20 years men have made great strides in winning the right to share custody of their children, they have made little headway in the area of support. It seems that support continues to be decided along the lines of “die-hard gender roles” writes Emma Johnson, personal finance columnist for Forbes magazine who did a series on alimony which you can find here. Interestingly, despite the attention given to a woman’s right to earn equal pay, you don’t see the National Organization for Women, nor any other lobbying groups for that matter, seeking to put an end to the obviously discriminatory practice of awarding support to women, but not to men. In her series, Johnson, obviously a woman, advocates numerous reasons why alimony should be abolished entirely. She argues that the end of alimony would force each able-bodied person to be financially responsible for themselves and would require women to acquire what she terms “financial literacy”. She argues further that in economic downturns, such as the one from 2007 to 2009, men lost more than twice as many jobs as women did. Johnson also argues that “the biggest reason no alimony is great for women is that without it, each party is allowed to move on with their lives, which is the whole point of divorce. Living off a check from an ex only keeps you emotionally embroiled in a marriage that is now over.” These arguments seem to be valid, especially considering the fact that we have moved to a nearly-egalitarian employment situation when it comes to gender. Will the legislature ever consider these facts and re-evaluate support laws? It’s certainly food for thought.