Alimony is Gender-Neutral
Key Points
  • Alimony is gender neutral, but more often it is a husband that pays a wife alimony as a result of a divorce or legal separation.
  • The concept of alimony rests on the fact that when a couple is marriage for a significant amount of time, there is an obligation to provide financial support past the life of the marriage.
  • The factors considered when determining alimony are the same for both spouses and should be examined equally.

The traditional view of alimony is that the man pays, and this generally continues to be the case even today. Firm statistics are hard to come by, but there are far more men paying alimony than there are receiving it. In fact, it is still very rare for women to be the former spouse paying alimony.

However, men receiving alimony is becoming increasingly more common. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of American men receiving alimony has climbed, from 7,000 in 1998 to 13,000 in 2008.

The concept of alimony is based on the belief that the marriage contract implies an obligation between spouses that extends past the end of the marriage. One spouse has an obligation to financially support the other.

Alimony is the money that a higher-earning spouse pays a lower-earning partner at the end of their marriage. Court-ordered, long-lasting (”permanent, like cement,” as one comedian put it), and based on inequalities in spousal incomes, alimony is the source of many nightclub jokes, such as the divorced man who laments, “She got the mine, and I got the shaft.” Gender neutrality – which is established in all jurisdictions in America – now turns the metaphor around.

For the husband or the wife, the factors taken into consideration when calculating alimony remain the same. They include the length of the marriage, the sacrifices one spouse has made for the career of the other, and their current and future earning potential. Because husbands have traditionally been the breadwinners with much higher incomes, men traditionally paid alimony.

But as women move to the tops of their fields, more men find themselves in the position of potential alimony recipient when the marriage falters. It's becoming increasingly common for women to make more money than their husbands, and some estimates suggest that as many as 40 percent of women make more than their partner.

One divorce lawyer suggests a man should consider alimony when:

  • The wife earns more than the husband does. If a wife makes substantially more than a husband, he may request alimony, but there must be a large difference in salaries for alimony to be granted.
  • The wife has more education than the husband. If a wife has more formal education than the husband, her earning potential may be considerably higher than his, for example, when a female doctor marries a male nurse.
  • The husband made sacrifices for the wife’s employment. For example, when the couple moved for the wife’s career. If he made accommodations for her employment, he may be in a position to argue for alimony.
  • The childcare roles reversed, and Dad stayed home with the children.

Suggested Reading
The Spousal Support Handbook The Spousal Support Handbook
Spousal support is one of many issues that is often difficult for spouses to agree upon. Before negotiating and even signing an agreement regarding spousal support it is very important that you understand your rights and the repercussions of any actions taken.

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DURATION -- Alimony is often considered "rehabilitative," that is, ordered as long as necessary for the recipient to receive training and become self-supporting. If the divorce decree does not specify a termination date, the payments continue until the court orders otherwise. Most awards end if the recipient remarries.
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