The De-Gendering of Divorce: Wives Pay Ex-Husbands Alimony Too

Women who outearn their husbands are not so willing to accept the old obligations of spousal support when the marriage ends

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Divorce papers filed by singer Britney Spears in Los Angeles Superior Court on November 7, 2006

Not long ago, after giving a talk about the growing number of women who are breadwinners in their marriages, I was approached by an audience member who identified herself as a lawyer. She said that she was definitely seeing this trend in her practice — nearly 40% of working wives now outearn their husbands — and that while economic power is a good thing, overall, for women, it can have one negative outcome many don’t anticipate. Among her divorce clients, she said, more and more were women who found themselves ordered by a court to pay spousal support to ex-husbands. “And boy,” she said, “are they pissed.”

(MORE: The End of Alimony: How American Divorces Are Changing)

That these women are angry is to be expected: men don’t like paying alimony either, and writing a check every month has long been, for men, one of the prime impediments to postmarital bliss. But their reaction also suggests that women, while eager to benefit from progress and expanded opportunities, are not so willing to accept the more painful consequences of our success. What’s sauce for the gander is, alas, sauce for the goose. It may or may not make it easier on these check-writing ex-wives to know that they are part of a larger movement: the degendering of alimony and divorce, which is a natural outgrowth of the degendering of roles in marriage.

Once upon a time, the point of alimony was clear: it recognized the essential deal underlying marriage back in the days of “separate spheres,” when it was a husband’s role to provide, and a wife’s role to stay home, raise the children, run the household and enable the husband to be hard-working and high-earning. The economist Gary Becker famously argued that this was how couples maximized their efficiency: dividing the labor enabled both to succeed in their respective spheres. When marriages fell apart, alimony provided legal and economic recognition of the fact that a wife had sacrificed her earning power to maximize that of her husband and enhance the welfare of their family.

(MORE: Women, Money and Power: How Women’s Wealth Is Changing Society)

Now that the separate-spheres marriage has been replaced, in many cases, by the dual-earner version, there is a move to abolish permanent alimony altogether. As this TIME story documents, in some states the crusade is being supported by second wives, many of them working women, appalled that their earnings (in some cases) are going to pay the alimony of first wives who stayed at home to raise children. The animosity between those two groups is in some ways one more iteration of the mommy wars — the lingering gulf that exists between women who work outside the home and women who work within it. But it’s also a sign that the bargain of marriage has changed and splintered; there can be any number of deals now, including deals where the mom stays home; deals where both spouses work; and increasingly, deals where the woman is the primary earner. The ranks of stay-at-home dads are small, but they have doubled in the past decade. And in dual-earner marriages, there are more and more where it’s the wife whose career takes center stage and the man’s that becomes supplementary.

(MORE: TIME’s Exclusive Excerpt of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In)

As a result, it’s not only women who are wrestling with new emotions: after publishing a book on female breadwinners, I also heard from a bank administrator who quit his job after his first child was born, enabling his wife to more fully pursue a lucrative career as a lawyer. He said that he loved and trusted his wife, but sacrificing his career and paycheck did make him feel “rather vulnerable.” Just as women may find themselves angry, men may find themselves uneasy, as both sexes get used to the fact that some of the old patterns will persist, shorn of gender, and so will some of the old obligations.

40 comments
RobGenaa
RobGenaa

I would NEVER pay alimony. My jobs would be CASH jobs and all my assets would be in the name of a trust. I would quit working and live in a box under a bridge before I would pay an American parasite a dime!


But that's just me, America is full of whiny manginas who would rather be slaves and pay and gripe rather than do the courageous thing and get themselves free.

RobGenaa
RobGenaa

This article is basically irrelevant as over 96% of those paying alimony are men. It does show how when a small handful of women have to pay men, FOR ONCE, NOW it needs to be done away with. That's eeekwalitee for you.

HiteAmeniwewe
HiteAmeniwewe



All my thanks to Dr.Ameniwewe. My ex-husband and I have been back together for two months now. And it's been even better than ever. We've been talking about our future, about moving in together and also getting married soon. Things between us are great. I thank you for helping to bring him back to me!, and in case you want to also contact him for help email address is olukuntemple@gmail.com

RobinHair
RobinHair

Please read and sign my petition below, a MOST EGREGIOUS alimony horror story. My now deceased husband, while diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme IV, was cruelly and inhumanely treated by Judge Andrea Carter, Middlesex County, and Defendant, ex-wife, a South Brunswick, NJ second grade school teacher.They attacked him like lion's prey until there was no life left in him. Please sign the petition and help me get “Justice for James.” Thanks.


http://www.change.org/petitions/nj-permanent-alimony-termination-litigation-contributed-to-my-husband-s-death#

devilfish
devilfish

96 percent of all people who pay alimony are men. Only 4 percent of them are women even though in today's society which is far from equal is still closer to equality than it ever has been. Women make 80 percent what a man makes and 34 percent of all marriages show that the women make more money than their husbands. And yet, I know at least one woman who is  trying to skirt her responsibilities and  is not willing to divide assets equally after marriage. 

PiresMelde
PiresMelde

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SheilaTaylor
SheilaTaylor

PAI never believed in permanent alimony. I worked since I could babysit at age 12 and continued to work full time, sometimes working two jobs, my entire adult life. My ex-spouse was not so energetic. So when he left me, after 25 years, for another woman, I was stunned to discover that, because I made more as a nurse, I would be required to pay him alimony! I have subsequently learned that there are many others, including women, who are forced to endure this painful and unjust sentence. I am dedicated to support alimony reform in NJ and look forward to a day when we can be free.

AngelZillion
AngelZillion

My Name is Mrs. Angela, I was married to my husband for 8years and we were both blessed with three children, living together as one January until 2013 when things was no longer the way it was [when he lost his job]. But when he later gets a new job 3 months after, he started sleeping outside our matrimonial home. Only for me to find out that he was having an affair with the lady that gave him the job. since that day, when i called him, he no longer pick up my calls and nothing good and positive seems to come out from him. Yet my husbands just still keep on seeing the new girl friend till Dr. Orinoko cast a spell for me, now he is back with me and me only. And i am happy with my family if you need his help contact on via email, orinokosolutiontemple1@gmail.com 

ZimbaZumba
ZimbaZumba

Feminist jurisprudence coming round to bite them in the butt, ha ha.

KoldKrush
KoldKrush

So all was well when men were the only ones forking over thousands to an ex wife but now since a small number of women are speaking up because THEY got the shaft in divorce court it is all of a sudden a problem? I don't think alimony should have ever existed to be honest because adults should pay their own way and children already get child support and that is perfectly fair. Its just ridiculous how NOW its and issue because women realize that they too can be forced to pay. The same thing happened with Halle Berry and her model ex husband. Women were ready to rip him to shreds. Hypocritical much?

At this rate marriage will be completely obsolete.

JohnnieFinn
JohnnieFinn

So if it affects women, it's suddenly a problem? 


You bigoted trash.

vampirediahrrea
vampirediahrrea

Serves you right, you feminist idiots. Women never cared about the injustice of alimony until you self-absorbed shrews started paying it, too.

rpc415
rpc415

Our children are witnessing  this 'enablement' and 'victim' mentality and think it is OK to depend on someone else to support them.  My husband's ex had a college degree -- he did not.   He lost his job 6 months after their divorce and had to retrain and find employment in a totally unrelated field to support himself and pay his alimony -- there is no reason the ex could not do the same -- except the fact that she has no motivation to do so because she is already being supported by her ALIMONY payment.  There is no reason in 2013 that everyone can't take care of themselves !!  The divorce was in FLORIDA so he will have to pay her this alimony FOREVER based on current laws -- many lawmakers in FL saw the injustice and insanity of this but FL gov Rick Scott VETO'd the bill at the last minute despite the overwhelming majority passing the reformed laws in both the house and senate.   Outrageous.



Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2013/05/16/the-de-gendering-of-divorce-wives-pay-ex-husbands-alimony-too/#ixzz2UQ2TZO98

tbrand7
tbrand7

I agree with Short (except for being locked in a closet). The issue is lifetime alimony. Nobody can believe that is fair except family lawyers, crooked politicians and ex's who are abusing the systems. If alimony is going to stay it should be based on a formula similar to child support. 


CharlesEdwardBrown
CharlesEdwardBrown

Guys like Women's lib. Marry some homely girl who is rich or makes a lot of money. Then party all the time and when she divorces you, you can just get alimony. If you are a good looking guy then life has never been better.

SHORT
SHORT

"Permanent Alimony" is about "Controling Personalities" using the legal system to retain "Control" over their victims. They spend years and years in court fighting their EX, instead of moving on. I and other friends and people we met all went our way after our divorces "with and without kids". You have friends and family to help you get back into the world, and you have more opportunities to meet the "Right Person". Moving on, you meet the right person and have more money and happiness than......fighting an EX for "How many years and how many court cases"? Do you really think that is a "Positive for you or your family?  Yes, take some help for "Education" and get counselling to get you on the right track. But don't spend years trying to make them pay? I was beaten and locked in closets by my mother and repeatedly beaten and raped until I passed out at 19, was I mad and angry........I got help and moved on......do yourself a favor, let go and move on!!!

BobBeaton
BobBeaton

Alimony is anti family and anti marriage. My ex will never remarry as long as an alimony check is rolling in. I cannot remarry because my brides income could be used to actually give my ex a raise in alimony! How crazy is that?? Second wives supporting first wife!

Do not give me the poor woman scenario, as they receive well over half of marital assets at divorce. Some people are just greed

m.e.
m.e.

How about putting a bullet in judges who order alimony(no matter which gender its for) except in extreme cases where the money goes to the children; & while one's at it, how about putting a bullet in these lawyers who are ripping clients off in continuing this practice?

LeeKallett
LeeKallett

Here's another story that is an injustice of what alimony should be about. http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/bizarre/content/sex-change-does-not-alter-alimony-payments-judge-says/2005227

Tampa Bay Times
Bizarre Florida
Sex change does not alter alimony payments, judge says
Times Editor
Tuesday, June 17, 2008 2:08pm

A Seminole man must continue to pay $1,250 per month in alimony despite the fact that his ex-wife is now a man, Tampa Bay's 10 reports. Larry Roach's 18-year marriage to a woman named Julia fell apart when she began injecting testosterone and became Julio. Now Roach says he hates pay day. “It goes for paying medication for steroids, testosterone, maintaining a beard, mustache and a penis,” he said. He took his case to court, but a judge ruled that a sex change does not mean a pay change.
[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 11:01am]

KellyRentschler-Mills
KellyRentschler-Mills

Permanent alimony hurts the entire family.  It keeps spouses in court, the lawyers fat and happy, and the children in the middle of bitter financial arguments.   Permanent alimony keeps one spouse in the poorhouse and the other from realizing freedom and their true potential.  In the distant past men were favored in divorce and in an effort to change that the scales had been tipped the other way.  Now we have a situation where the higher earning spouse is saddled with a lifetime debt that they can never get out from under and the family court benefits from this through federal subsidies, ( Read Title IV of the Social Security Act), the lawyers also benefit from endless litigation.   The higher earning spouse has no hope of modification for retirement even though the opposing spouse will get part of their pension and can collect on the former spouses Social Security.  Even if the higher earning spouse becomes disabled, modification is impossible to get, even though the law allows for it. The current system is not about fairness or the best interests of the parties or their children, it's about money plain and simple. In the current system children are used as pawns for financial gain.  This is simply wrong there should be a presumption of equal parenting.  Extenuating circumstances can be taken care of in court.  What we have now seems to automatically deem the higher earning spouse as the bad parent and the bad spouse!  This is neither fair nor just.  People who support Alimony reform only want  to see fair, balanced, and predictable outcomes for ALL, not just the higher or lower earner.  People who support Alimony Reform want to stop the family finances  from ending up in the hands of the attorneys like they do now.  Make no mistake the lawyers are about keeping their cash cow and nothing else.  How many people do you know who have handed over much of the family finances to lawyers?    Alimony Reform is about fairness to ALL parties of a divorce, not just the one who pays.  Divorce should not only be an end to a marriage, but also a new beginning for both parties.  The current system keeps the parties tied up in court and tied together in bitterness and really hurts the children.  As someone who was a young widow with small children I ask you to ponder why widows and widowers are expected to pick themselves up and create a new life without a lifetime of survivor benefits, then why are divorced people not expected to do the same.  Shame on those who want to thwart real balance, fairness, and predictability in the family courts.

LeeKallett
LeeKallett

This is my alimony horror story. In the no fault divorce state of Florida, the ex had many adulterous affairs with other women-including her 20 year old cousin. She gets rewarded for this and her changed sexual orientation with lifetime alimony by the Hillsborough County Court (Tampa) and I get punished financially. How is this right and just? It certainly isn't and the time to fix such an injustice is now.
Elvina and Lee Kallett of St. Pete Beach, FL - Pays lifetime alimony to woman unable to remarry
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l523XAgv_vc

Lee Kallett of St. Pete Beach, FL - Pays $4K in permanent alimony to lesbian ex-wife
www.youtube.com
This is Lee Kallett and Elvina Kallett. He pays permanent alimony to a woman who left the marriage because she chose to live a lesbian

Paradise56
Paradise56

Alimony should have been banished decades ago, except for extreme circumstances. I am a woman who refused alimony following my first divorce and cam close to having to pay following the second. I've always thought it ridiculous that anyone, male or female, would think they "deserve" to be supported by someone else. 

MaryL.Jones
MaryL.Jones

The problem in Florida with the bill that was introduced as 'reform' is that it was 'crafted' by small-minded people who were personally motivated and malicious.  Among other things, their legislation lacked consideration and protections for the disabled, wounded Veterans and anyone who took care of or takes care of the disabled.  It was short-sighted and mean-spirited.  They are making their small, immoral issue (Oh no, I can't marry the man whose marriage I broke up because his wife might take us back to court) into something for all to suffer.  Our Veterans and the disabled deserve better.  (Where IS the ADA on this!!!)  So do 1st wives.  Second wives’ income is not at risk here, this rhetoric is all just smoke and mirrors.  Thank goodness Governor Rick Scott had the decency to veto this crap.  Don’t we have enough immorality running rampant these days?  Leave legal equations to legal experts.  I feel for these first wives and the targeting they are receiving at the hands of these trollops.

thisiscrap
thisiscrap

so it was all well and good when only men had to pay, but now that women have to pay too, they want to put an end to it.

BrianHelly
BrianHelly

I am an alimony payer to the mother of my children to who has not participated in my children's lives since the divorce. She is perfectly capable to work (and is for her live in boyfriend). They will not marry she would lose the alimony. So my children have lost the benefit of having the money I pay her to which I would have given them. And she has never given them any benefit of the monies I pay her.

JodyJodystewart
JodyJodystewart

<sarcasm> This just breaks my damn heart that these poor women may to pay alimony now .</sarcasm>

bolderr
bolderr

In the face of the obvious injustices around alimony, regardless of who pays, the Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, just signed on May 10 a bill to force people divorcing in Colorado to pay the highest amounts of alimony for the longest periods of time in the history of mankind.  Try this on:  Guaranteed alimony in any marriage of 3 years or longer, guaranteed LIFETIME alimony in any marriage over 20 years, alimony amounts that are the highest on the planet, calculated using a formula that can award up to 40% of the payer's GROSS income (not net income, GROSS income!), overtime income of the payer can be considered when plugging into the formula, mandatory life insurance payable to the recipient of alimony, but paid for by the alimony payer, all divorces are absolutely no fault with marital conduct explicitly prohibited from being considered when alimony is awarded, and on and on and on. 

Yes, these statutes apply to civil unions, also. 

The number of women paying alimony in Colorado is expected to skyrocket.  Since alimony i snow a guaranteed formula, judges can't arbitrarily deny alimony to men any longer.   

I expect this new law to last for as along as it takes for a few TV-friendly single moms, preferably gay,  to be hit with onerous alimony payments, then the legislature will be scrambling to repeal the statutes.  This is 2013, not 1953.  There is NO WAY a ballot initiative with these terms would pass if put before voters. 

KathiBender
KathiBender

You  take fault out of divorce and all that is left is money.  Women paying alimony to men who have no children to care for is the same injustice as men paying women who have no children.  Yet, lifetime alimony is awarded.    Abusers are receiving permanent alimony.  People who can provide for their own basic needs are relying on additional income - alimony - and it is for life. Efforts to modify when income is affected are frowned upon.  Only the recipient's needs are referenced, never the payers ability to pay.  This results in a comedy of gruesome legal errors for which a court holds no accountability.   Even when their payer retires, there is no auto reduction and modifications promised are denied after a costly effort.   The law needs to create an expectation eventual independence.  The major change with reform will be to abolish permanent alimony and allow both men and women to grow separately.  Marriage ends.  The income both enjoyed ends.  New life is about to begin and no one said it will be easy.  Support A3909 for a  better New Jersey.

CheriS.
CheriS.

The current system isn't just unfair, it is also cruel and often evil. Adulteresses should not be entitled to decades of alimony, but they are routinely awarded it by the system. Women who divorce an abusive husband, or one who is a substance abuser, should not have to pay him alimony for decades just because he cannot or will not hold a job. They took away the "fault" in divorce in 1970, but they left the lifetime of punishment on the books. Now those laws are exploited everyday by the lawyers in the system because, hey, its good for business. And the Judges don't care, they just want you to go somewhere else to lick your wounds and not clutter up their court calendars. The laws MUST change, and ending permanent alimony is a good place to start.

JustinTC
JustinTC

@devilfish Actually women have closed and reversed the pay gap and nowadays (2014) most women earn more than most men.

atandasulli
atandasulli

Well then - they're not really feminists. 

JuliaBrown1
JuliaBrown1

@MaryL.Jones Or whichever lawyer you are: You say the reform was "crafted by small minded people who were personally motivated and malicious". I'm sorry but the small minded people are the lawyers who refuse to believe that permanent alimony is hurting families. Please tell me WHY the first wife is much more important than the children. There are payers who cannot help their children, minor or grown because the money must got for outrageous payments to the EX. . Just how does alimony reform hurt disabled veterans? I do know of some disabled veterans that must pay alimony to the Ex and that leaves them very little to live on. Your other quote "leave legal equations to legal experts" is just laughable. How do you think that states such as Fl, NJ, Oregon and several other states got into such a mess with alimony??  "I feel for these first wives and the targeting they are getting" is another of your quotes.  Do you know who I feel for?? It's the payers, both men and women. Yes, the number of women payers is increasing and this is also hurting the children. I know of one woman who has to pay her ex husband half of her salary and she struggles to buy food for herself and her son. She has no money for his dental care. Now that is just Pathetic and that is where judges discretion  is a farce!!They DO NOT CARE. All they want to do is get this case off their desk.

I sincerely hope that Gov Scott is voted out because it is very evident that he does not care about the people . only the lawyers and maybe he thought he could win the women's vote. Well there are lots of women who see that permanent alimony is nothing more than modern day slavery!!

TerryPower
TerryPower

@MaryL.Jones <---- This is one of Florida's infamous predatory litigating divorce attorneys, folks. "Mary" is actually a man, and is one of the unofficial mouthpieces of the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar, the lobbying group for these bottom feeders.

I really loved his line "Leave legal equations to legal experts". Excuse me. Baahahahahahaha...... Thank you.

Permanent alimony = Permanent litigation = Permanent legal fees. The litigating divorce attorneys just love the status quo. The current system, which they carefully crafted for their own benefit, insures that they will continue to stuff millions into their pockets for years to come.....at the expense of Florida's families. It's their own, private annuity. And it's not fair.

We have a 73 year old with alzheimers who pays permanent alimony. Has for years. He just doesn't know it. His new wife (is she the "trollop" you're referring to, Mary?) is his 24/7 care giver since he's completely bedridden and has been for years. Just go to YouTube and search "alzheimer permanent alimony" and his story will pop right up. 

Tell me again how the reform laws were going to negatively impact the "disabled, wounded Veterans and anyone who took care of or takes care of the disabled".

The alimony reform bills sailed through both legislative chambers in Florida by a better than 2/3 vote in each, only to be vetoed by a Governor who appeared to be more interested in doing what he believed was "pro-woman". This excellent article underscores that nothing is further from the truth. Permanent alimony is a gender-neutral, bipartisan issue that will finally be successfully resolved in 2014.

And maybe then Mark can stop pretending to be "Mary Jones", eh?  

RobGenaa
RobGenaa

@atandasulli I have never met a REAL feminist. Women ALWAYS seek the benefits that their gender will yield for them, 100%!


Some like to pretend that they are egalitarian but that's called denial, as they ALL take female privilege without even thinking about it.

JustinTC
JustinTC

@RobGenaa I've never met a "real" feminist either. Apparently they're like unicorns or something.