When the concepts of alimony were first constructed, we lived in a society where most women were unable to work outside of the home and earn a living. And divorce was based on fault. Therefore, if a marriage ended and the husband was at fault, the wife was left in need of permanent financial support or take to the streets. Spousal support (or, “alimony” as it is commonly referred) provided a mechanism to protect the women.
As the years progressed and generations of women began completing college and graduate schools, and entering the workforce at rapid speed, the disparity between man and woman’s ability to be self-supportive decreased. Today, in stark contrast to the 1900’s, women are educated, employed, and equal to their male counterparts in their ability to be self-supportive. In many cases, the tides have shifted to such a degree that many women out-earn their partners, resulting in alimony flowing from the ex-wife to the ex-husband. Today, gender doesn’t necessarily drive the decision to be the stay-at-home parent. Nowadays, it is a choice whether to stay home and raise a family, pursue a career outside of the home or a hybrid of both. In a modern society, where the family dynamic has changed the very reason alimony was originally devised, do the same underlying themes for awarding alimony still apply? Should the standard by which alimony is awarded be modified to more accurately reflect the new, modern gender-neutral couple? Are the current, antiquated guidelines and decisions being made in the courts offensive? And if so, to whom?
I often hear that term offensive used when discussing spousal support. It is spoken with a harsh tone, coming from someone often angered at the notion that monies will have to be paid to get out of the marriage. “Cashing out of the marriage,” is also phrase commonly used to describe the ability to use the threat of alimony as leverage to obtain a better settlement. While alimony strikes fear in most men, especially those living in states still recognizing permanent alimony, it is now also a risk that many professional women face when filing for divorce. I’ve seen many women who are equal-earners to their husbands, who describe a feeling of liberation when they learn that alimony is not likely to be a component of their case. It’s that “ah-ha!” moment, when they realize that they don’t need to be financially supported by their ex-husbands. I’ve also worked with women who out-earn their husbands, who are outraged that they may be responsible for paying alimony. Regardless of what side of the fence you are on, alimony is fraught with many issues from calculating how much spousal support should be awarded to determining how long the financial support should continue. There are many reasons and rationales for why spousal support post-marriage is necessary. However, has anyone ever considered all of the reasons why it evokes such a caldron of negative emotion? Whether you are male or female, consider the following:
Reasons Why Alimony May Be Considered Offensive:
1. An alimony obligation that forces one party to significantly financially downsize his/her lifestyle, while the alimony-receiving former spouse continues to live at the same standard of living as had been enjoyed during the marriage is inequitable and offensive to the alimony-paying spouse
2. Paying alimony to an ex-spouse, who is cohabiting with someone else
3. Agreeing to lump sum alimony, and watching your ex remarry shortly
4. Alimony quashes the motivation to work and become self-sufficient
5. Alimony encourages a “victim” mentality, which is insulting when the recipient is educated and capable of working
How do you feel about court-ordered spousal support? Is it black and white, or, are there shades of gray in between? When is it necessary? When is it not?