As a nation, we’ve made important strides in gender equality. Women have become an essential part of the workforce. In 40 percent of all U.S. households, women are the breadwinners. However, there is one significant area where there is still a great deal of gender disparity — alimony.
According to the U.S. Census, only 3 percent of the 400,000 people receiving alimony are men. A significant reason for that, say attorneys who practice family law, is simply leftover biases from another era — not just by the judges, but by the men themselves. As one Northern California divorce attorney puts it, “[O]ld stereotypes die hard.” He goes on to say that many men find the thought of asking for spousal maintenance “emasculating.” Divorce attorneys say that they have very few male clients who intend to seek support from their estranged spouse even if the difference in their incomes warrants it.
Attorneys say that another reason for the extremely low percentage of men receiving alimony is the fight that women who are the chief earners in the family are more likely to put up a fight about paying it than men are. When the women push back on the idea of paying alimony, the men are further humiliated. They are “essentially shamed” into not taking alimony.
One man’s story provides an example of many men’s attitudes towards accepting spousal support, even if their wives can afford it and they need it. He was a public school teacher who became a stay-at-home dad while his wife earned a six-figure salary. He says that after he and his wife split, he worked at multiple jobs and took money from his parents, and still barely got by.
Despite the urging of his attorney to seek alimony, he says, “I’d never hit a girl and I’d never beg from a girl.” The 53-year-old admits that this attitude might be a bit generational on his part.
It remains to be seen if the younger generation of men and women change this gender disparity in alimony in the years ahead. Many of them were raised by mothers with well-paying jobs and are used to seeing men who choose to take a break from their careers to stay home with their kids. An experienced family law attorney can fight to help men get the spousal support despite the continuation of long-outdated perceptions of gender.
Source: Forbes, “Why Do So Few Men Get Alimony?” Emma Johnson, Nov. 20, 2014