Jul 13, 2018
Let’s start with the basics, what is spousal support? Spousal support is a payment made by one ex-spouse to the other, in order for the lower or no income ex-spouse to maintain a similar lifestyle to the lifestyle he/she experienced when they were married. When you are getting a divorce, your cases will fall into one of three categories:
- No spousal support will be paid — Both members of the divorce are capable of supporting themselves financially.
- Temporary spousal support will be paid — Temporary spousal support will be granted by the judge requiring the higher earning spouse to pay spousal support to the lower-earning spouse until he/she is able to find a job and financially support himself/herself.
- Permanent spousal support will be paid — This is becoming more and rarer, but permanent spousal support is awarded when one spouse can prove that the marriage derailed their career path and they will be unable to financially support himself/herself. For example, if the wife gave up her career to be a stay at home mother and limited her earning potential, while the husband maximized his earning potential during those years. Another scenario where permanent spousal support is awarded is if one spouse has a disability and is unable to work.
Spousal support has become a national debate. While there is a growing number of younger people fighting on the side of doing away with spousal support, the older generation is holding strong, stating that it is necessary.
Alimony and child support is a two-way street but with a lot of twists and turns along the way. It is an imperfect system but it is the only one we have in place right now. As with any law, there is always room for improvement and revision and many family court justices are helping to make some necessary changes by reinterpreting the basic laws regarding alimony as a “male only” burden. In the past, it was assumed that when there was a separation or divorce, the man would support his former wife by paying alimony. If children were involved, he was also obligated to pay child support, which was a separate issue.
The paying of alimony can be traced as far back as the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi. The term alimony comes from the Latin word alimōnia which meant nourishment and sustenance. It was created to assure the wife’s (or “discarded” wife), lodging, food, clothing, and other necessities after divorce.
Alimony has an interesting history, one that was basically a somewhat derogatory assistance for women who were seen as the “weaker sex.” The law in the United States is based on the laws found in Ecclesiastical Courts in England. Since the husband was the sole owner of all marital property, and the wife depended upon him to provide for her sustenance, the English Ecclesiastical courts consistently ruled that the husband had the duty to provide for the wife after divorce as well. Otherwise she would become, “a burden of the people.” Heaven forbid there should be any burdensome women around!
Does It Need To Exist Today?
While a woman is no longer considered to be a lesser partner in a marriage, and marital property after divorce is divided equally, there is still a strong feeling that a man owes an obligation to his former wife in a financial sense. This is being debated in family courts. There are people who try to cheat the system and that makes it bad for everyone involved.
Today, with women as well as men working outside the home, the idea that anyone with a well-paying job needs to receive extra income simply because they were once married is antiquated and ludicrous. If both partners are able to support themselves, additional money from a former spouse, barring child support, is unnecessary and punishing.
No one should have to come out of the marriage losing financially. If one partner is more financially secure than the other, a form of alimony should be paid on a sliding scale but today does that even matter if you are earning well for yourself?. This system should then go for men paying alimony as well as women.
If a child is under school-age, and the mother or the father needs to be a stay-at-home parent, alimony is a fair accommodation until that parent is able to begin working outside the home.
The support of a child should be the responsibility of both parents. If one makes considerably more than the other, the division of support should show it. Instead of a 50/50 support contract it may well be 75/50 or whatever is fair. A woman making three times more a year than her ex-husband is capable of giving more money to support the child. Fair is fair.
Alimony should be an equal opportunity responsibility. While the majority of alimony recipients are still women who are stay-at-home mothers and men are the ones who pay it, the system is changing and rightly so. Gone are the days when a healthy woman, capable of working, was supported for life simply because of the Mrs. in front of her name. And the same goes for any healthy man.
In the purest sense of the law, alimony was always meant to help and protect a former spouse who was incapable of taking care of herself/himself financially. Child support is a necessary obligation of parenting. Neither was meant to be abused or used as a form of punishment during divorce proceedings. The relationship reality here is that alimony, in spite of everything else that may be negative about divorce, should be the one part that is fair and just to both parties. No one should be the winner or the loser.
Things Are Changing Now…
In today’s workplaces, men and women are equally regarded in nearly all positions. Now, of course there are gender-majority professions, but few people view the minority gender employee as incapable of doing his or her job in that field. Maybe more difficult, but they are still able to receive that profession and work.
With that being said, after a married couple decides to become divorced, why is the “breadwinner” required to continue his or her support of the lesser or under employed individual? The choice of becoming divorced is wanting to become legally separated from your spouse, and most likely one of the top three reasons for this are financially. State or local courts telling you that you must continue to support this individual, because during your marriage that was your position, is outdated.
50 years ago, when divorce did not even occur at the percentage it does now, women were unable to obtain higher paying positions like their counterparts could. But everyone knows that it not true now. Women are now leading as breadwinners across the world. Keep in mind, I FIRMLY believe in child support. Children between two people is permanent and support should indefinitely be shared between both parties until that child reaches adulthood, and not by the man alone. The issue I have with alimony is just that; both parties are adults. Alimony has historically been for an indefinite term, and in an amount necessary to ensure the other spouse’s old standard of living. But that’s clearly an artefact of a time when the man was always the breadwinner and a divorced woman was damaged goods.
Medium member since Aug 2018
Writing is the only way I can make sense of what I think. It’s cathartic. It’s healthy. It’s fun.