There is no doubt that women have traditionally received alimony more often than men. However, men should understand that they have just as much right to spousal support as their wives if the circumstances were reversed.
Last week, I did a consultation with “Mark” (not his real name) who was recently informed by his wife she was filing for a divorce. Mark, a public school teacher had spent the past 8 years at home caring for their two children. Both Mark and his wife agreed it would be best for him to stay home rather than have the children go to daycare and homeschool the children. After debating for months who would put their career on hold, they mutually agreed it would be him since her salary was over double his.
Fast forward 8 years later, now facing a divorce and not having worked in so many years, he found himself distraught over how he was going to get back on his feet financially. During our consultation, I pointed out that when he has his legal consultations, to inquire if he would be eligible for spousal support. “Is that a thing? Men can receive alimony; I’ve never heard of that?”
Sadly, Mark was right, you rarely hear of men receiving post-divorce spousal support. More women are now working in prestigious positions, with more husbands staying home with the kids, but men receiving support is still the exception rather than the rule.
Only 3% of recipients of spousal maintenance in the United States are men, according to Census figures. Yet 40 percent of households are headed by female breadwinners — suggesting that hundreds of thousands of men are eligible for alimony, yet don’t receive it. Why is this? When it comes to alimony, the law is blind to gender. The Supreme Court ruled that alimony is gender-neutral in 1979. But, to some, women having to dole out spousal support still comes as a shock.
Die-hard gender roles, bitter fights from breadwinning wives, ego, and pride are a few of the reasons why men don’t receive spousal support along with the fact that in many parts of the country, judges are flat-out sexist and biased against men! Many men also find seeking alimony emasculating, since as a society we have painted men as having to be the breadwinner. Men are essentially shamed into not receiving alimony.
Our culture expects men to be the primary breadwinners and there are simply more options for women for part-time work or to take time for child rearing Judges often award men less support for shorter durations while expecting them to return to the job market faster than women. The system is essentially flawed and incredibly biased.
In today’s culture, women have spent years advocating for equality, yet I’m always amazed that many bright and sophisticated women don’t realize nor want to accept that they will have to pay spousal support to their ex-husbands. No one wants to pay alimony, but women hate it times 10 and cannot wrap their heads around being asked to support their ex-husbands, and this can make it very difficult to settle cases.
Then, there are the men who forgo alimony even when they are eligible. Having to face the humiliation, stress, and expense of that fight, they are further disincentivized from pursuing spousal support. Men are essentially shamed into not receiving alimony. Also, I believe men are confident in their abilities to be financially self-sufficient and would prefer to rebuild their lives without the help of an ex-spouse.
Over the years when speaking with divorce attorneys, they confirm that very few men walk into their offices with the intent of asking for alimony, even when their situations are eligible for spousal support. Meanwhile, female breadwinners never pay alimony without a contentious battle, yet most men (especially my clients) go into their divorce accepting they will most likely wind up paying.
Not surprisingly, men are often their own worst enemies in obtaining support for themselves. Having been inundated with the pressures of society to be self-sufficient and not to count on their wives for financial help, men have a hard time recognizing that such support is not only necessary but fair and sometimes needed. Don’t sell yourself short and allow stereotypes or pride to affect your decision in whether to seek alimony.