Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Women Increasingly Paying Alimony

One of the reasons Amanda gave in this silly post for staying home not being a "free choice" for women was that an equal number of men don't want to do it.
Now, forget all the arguments about how men typically make more money than women and that that definitely figures into who is going to stay home, we all know that the real reason men don't give up full-time employment is that it's just so much gosh-darned fun doing all the icky, dangerous stuff men do to bring home the bacon.

But even if the vast majority of men really enjoy going to work, there are men who really want to stay home and eat bonbons while their wives are out being the breadwinners. These guys love being the house husband so much that they don't want to give it up even when the process server slaps them with the divorce papers. Thus, we have the new phenomenon where women increasingly are paying alimony (via ifeminists.net).

The idea that men can receive spousal support from their wives may feel like a freakish concept, but as women have become higher earners, it's increasingly common.

And as men set their sights on women's earnings, women have become more protective of those dollars. In fact, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 44% of attorneys included in a recent survey said they've seen an increase in women asking for prenuptial agreements over the last five years, where in previous decades, prenuptial agreements were almost always sought by men.

A lot of women are indignant now that the shoe is increasingly on the other foot, says Carol Ann Wilson, a certified financial divorce practitioner in Boulder, Colo. "There's this sense of, 'What's yours is ours, but what's mine is mine,'" Wilson says. "My first response to that is, 'All these years we have been looking for equality; well, this is what it looks like.' I think women get angrier about having to pay than men do."

As women earn more money, the number of women paying alimony has also gone up. According to an article at contemporaryfamilies.org, more than 10 million women make more money than their husbands.

And the stigma attached to being a "kept man" seem to be waning. More men are less ashamed to ask for alimony. According to the Contemporary Families article, there are more men willing to live off their wives while married, who then ask for alimony once the woman is fed up and leaves.

Gender neutral laws are starting to cut back against women who have made greater strides in the work world than previous generations. So now, a woman who brings home a six-figure income may find her standard of living significantly reduced if she decides to divorce. The law is designed to allow both spouses to retain the same standard of living, even if only one of them was earning the money.

So, I asked myself, how is it different if a man is staying home than the traditional housewife? Perhaps the difference I perceived was the way the spouses are typically presented in these stories: when the women is a SAHM (or just a plain ol' housewife), she is usually described as being involved with the children, keeping the house clean and neat, and doing other kinds of church or charity work. The men are rarely described as being involved with anything more important than a nap on the couch.

In other words, the women are industrious and virtuous, divorced by selfish men who are faithless and materialistic. The men are sloths and oafs, parasites living off their wives' hard-earned incomes. Pretty harsh, isn't it?

The truth is that there's still quite a stigma attached to alimony for men. I suspect that because there is a stigma, the only men who really seek alimony are the sorts of men your mother warned you about in the first place. Whereas, the women who seek alimony probably can point to careers put on hold while they raised their children and gratification delayed for the sake of the family.

I'm not saying women shouldn't have to pay alimony if the law allows it. It just seems like the darker side of equality under the law.