Traditionally, when society speaks about or thinks of alimony (also called spousal support), it has been given by men to their ex-wives. However, in the last few years, there has been an increase in the number of men suing and receiving alimony. As the number of women climbing the career ladder rises, so does the number of stay-at-home fathers, as well as the number of men seeking alimony. Women are now actually the top earners in one-third of all marriages, and as women continue to narrow the income gap, it has resulted in some unforeseen consequences, especially when it comes to divorce. In a recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, over half said they have seen a rise in the number of women paying child support to their ex-husbands over the past 3 years, and 47 percent have seen a rise in the number of women paying alimony.
Men typically seek alimony for the same reasons that women do:
1. They gave up their career to be a stay-at-home dad because their wife was the breadwinner in their family and made significantly more money than they did.
2. They made sacrifices in their career so their wives could build theirs. This may sound far-reached, but there are actually men out there that put their wife’s career needs ahead of their own, specifically if it gives them an opportunity to make significantly more income.
3. They use it as a tool to negotiate a better divorce settlement. Some men know their wife won’t want to write a monthly check but would agree to a lump sum payout, giving him a larger cut of her retirement or their residence (or second home, for that matter).
Interestingly enough, even though the number of men seeking alimony is on the rise, experts say a gender bias in the courts still exists, which has prevented some men from receiving spousal support from their wives. Kenneth Altshuler, president of the American Academy of Matrimony Lawyers (AAML), says “Most judges are male, and I’d say most male judges have a visceral rejection of the concept of women paying alimony to men because it is not traditionally what we in our society do. If you have a man making $300,000 and a woman making $50,000 versus the other way around, I would almost guarantee that the order for spousal support would be different 95 percent of the time.”
‘Matrimony’, as it has been dubbed, is also somewhat a controversial or heated topic for both men and women. Women want to be deemed as equals in the workplace and all aspects of gender equality, and thus are now being treated equally in the legal arena as well. However, some women are angry about having to pay alimony to their ex-husbands. Some feel that it’s the men’s responsibility to provide for the family, and there’s no reason their ex-husbands can’t be as self-sufficient as they are. Other women have cited the man’s ability to provide for their family as the reason they left the marriage, to begin with, and don’t feel it’s fair that they should have to support their ex-husband by providing alimony.
But the law is clear, and matrimony payments are based on the same criteria as alimony payments. The family courts look at the disparity in income, length of the marriage, and the potential for future income (among other factors). The subject of alimony is a very important topic for many divorcing couples, and also a very emotional one. If you have questions about alimony, whether you are a man or woman, please feel free to contact our office at 714.841.1931 and we will be happy to assist you.