Changing face of divorce: Ex-wives ordered to pay alimony
Family law is changing rapidly. The increase in the number of breadwinner women and the high rates of divorce, for example, have resulted in changes to the traditional alimony arrangement. Nowadays, courts are ordering more and more women to pay spousal support to their ex-husbands.
According to a recent Time magazine article, most women who are ordered to pay alimony aren’t happy about it. That’s understandable, given that most men don’t like paying alimony, either. Alimony has always been seen as a big obstacle to post-marital happiness for many ex-spouses.
This reaction suggests that while women definitely benefit today from expanded opportunities and greater income potential, they, like men, aren’t so eager to accept the adverse consequences of success. But as the dynamics of the modern-day family change, so do roles. A so-called “de-gendering” occurs as families shift from a traditional single-earner to a dual-earner arrangement, or to a family in which the woman is the primary breadwinner.
Traditionally, men were the family breadwinners. The wife stayed home and took care of the household. When the marriage broke down, the alimony award legally and economically recognized that the wife’s sacrifices that hindered her ability to earn money. This was the burden that ex-husbands, who were obliged to pay permanent alimony, bore as the price of freedom. As the tide turned, however, an increasing number of stay-at-home dads freed up their wives to pursue careers. Most men in this role feel vulnerable despite having trusted and loving wives. In the event of divorce, these men, too, may deserve and be entitled to alimony.
California state family laws do not favor one gender over the other, despite claims by some to the contrary. It only favors what it sees to be fair by law. Changes in the traditional family roles changed the overall opinion because both sides may now finally understand what it’s like to be on the other side of the spousal support agreement.
Someday, laws may be passed to eradicate permanent alimony, but, until then, divorcing spouses should aim to end their relationship amicably and fairly, which may result in an alimony or spousal support award paid by one ex-spouse or the other.
Source: Time, “The De-Gendering of Divorce: Wives Pay Ex-Husbands Alimony Too,” Liza Mundy, May 16, 2013