A recent Reuters article discussed a dramatic societal shift that has occurred over the past several decades, slowly at first, but now clearly identifiable to those working in the family law world – more men are asking for and receiving alimony.
For generations, alimony existed as a way of providing financial support to women following a divorce. Given the likelihood that women did not work outside the home, alimony was seen as a way of ensuring the woman avoided financial destitution after ending her marriage. These days, women increasingly work outside the home, often earning wages equal to or higher than their husbands.
Though some women have earned more than their husbands for years, only recently has it become more socially acceptable for men to request spousal support from their financially successful wives. Reuters discussed the case of one Tennessee man, Hugh McSharry, who was recently awarded alimony from his orthopedic surgeon wife. Though he may have initially had doubts about the request, he says that family and friends never batted an eye, something that he says would not have happened a generation ago.
Experts say it is difficult to determine exactly how many men are asking their wives for spousal support. The 2010 Census data found that 400,000 people across the country receive spousal support, and of that number, it is believed that around three percent are men. Though the number may be small, experts say it is growing. A survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that nearly half of all family law attorneys surveyed noticed an increase in the number of women paying alimony.
One attorney interviewed in the Reuters article noted that only ten years ago was the first time he ever saw a woman be required to pay alimony. This past year he handled seven cases where men were the recipients of spousal support. These changes are due to a variety of factors, including increases in education rates for women, a rise in salaries, and the growth in the number of men staying at home with children.
Though there have been changes, family law experts say that pride is the one issue that prevents some men from pushing for spousal support they might otherwise deserve. Men are often faster to drop alimony requests in the face of pushback from their spouse, something that many women would never feel the need to do. However, experts say that math often trumps pride, and showing men how much their lifestyle may have to change after a divorce without spousal support can be enough to convince them to push for the money they feel they are entitled to receive.