States Favorable to Alimony for Men Divorce Advice for Stay at Home Dads

States Favorable to Alimony for Men Divorce Advice for Stay at Home Dads

What do you know about alimony for men? Is alimony “gender neutral” just like custody should be?  If you’re a stay at home dad, should you expect to be given the same consideration as a woman in divorce court?

Here we will give you the latest on alimony for men, what the trends are looking like, and the states most likely to be father-friendly when it comes to spousal support.

History Did Not Contemplate Alimony for Men

This isn’t the article to dive deep into the origins, past, present, and future of alimony. We’ve already done that at Guyvorce. One takeaway from that series is that the origin of alimony is all based on money paid from a man to a woman. The ancient origins of spousal support did not include alimony for men.

The origin, though, is well rooted in the past. But we as a society are past that. We’ve seen Susan B. Anthony fight for suffrage, we’ve seen bra’s burned, and the glass ceiling shattered many times in corporate America. So any argument tying alimony to its roots as a “just for women” thing is clearly outdated and irrelevant. 

More Dads Are Primary Caregivers Then Ever Before

There are not real-time statistics available on the current percentage of alimony awards going to men, but we can extrapolate from stats that are a few years old to get a good idea. For example, according to the 2010 census records, only 3% of alimony awards went to men. But the numbers are growing.

We also  know that in 2013, almost half of households with children (40%) were financially supported by female breadwinners.  Of that group, 25% that are single mothers. That leaves 15% of married women providing or leading the income supply at home in 2013. More recent federal wage studies indicate that in married couples where both spouses work, 28% are households where the woman brings home the bigger paycheck.

Now that more women are paying huge chunks of their income in “manimony” they, too, are jumping on the alimony-reform bandwagon.

As of 2012, more than 2 million men were stay at home dads, almost double the 1989 measurement. These fathers were became the primary caregiver of their kids due to a variety of factors, including illness, disability, the inability to find a good paying job, and yes, because they want to care for their home and children.

Alimony and Child Custody Report Card for the States

Just as current statistics on alimony are hard to come by, state level alimony information is likewise difficult to nail down. For those states that do regularly consider alimony awards, though, the data on gender application are limited.

Again, some extrapolations can be made.  For the purpose of this article, we are assuming that states that are father-friendly when it comes to child custody are more likely to be amenable to alimony for men who are the stay-at-home parent.

There is one category of states that stand out from the others in their award record of alimony and these are states that don’t usually award alimony at all. Texas, as an example, has a sizable child support calculation, but also rarely awards spousal support or alimony. North Carolina also is a good example in their exclusion of alimony in the event of adultery.

Alimony decisions are supposed to be independent of child custody decisions. Yes, child support payment amounts should take into account the dollars actually exchanging hands based on alimony, but whether to award either type of payment is independent.

Decades ago, when the tender years doctrine dominated custody decisions, the mother in nearly all cases was awarded custody of the children. That standard, thankfully, has been replaced with one that looks into the best interest of the children. At the same time, scientific studies have been performed over the decades’ worth of children that have grown up in divorced situations. These studies almost universally point to the fact that children that grow up in shared custody environments are better off than those with less time spent with one of the parents.

Even with these studies and shift in governing doctrine, though, not all states are doing well in their interpretation of best interest and the associated award of shared custody. The states that do well in shared custody awards appear to get it, and will likely do well at understanding how alimony should be awarded when the dad is the caretaking parent.  

The National Parents Organization tracks effectively how well states are doing in making the right decisions for children during divorce through the states’ custody decisions. In their annual report, they cite six states as the best in keeping gender out of divorce decisions for custody, and are likely to be father-friendly for alimony, as well.

These top states are:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • South Dakota

Proposed Uniform Marriage and Divorce Statutes  

Family law is determined by each individual state. Each state is responsible for their individual divorce standards and application of alimony, although there has been a proposed set of statutes pending since 1970 that would provide uniformity of state laws pertaining to marriage. Drafted by the Uniform Law Commission, the proposed Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act  provide a template that may be adopted by any state for resolution of domestic disputes – including alimony and child custody – with consideration given to the following areas:

  • Requesting spouse’s financial condition
  • Time required for job training or education
  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • Requesting spouse’s age, physical condition, and emotional state
  • Length of the marriage
  • Ability of the other spouse to pay

Nowhere in the law is there a reference to gender. Therefore any award, or failure of award, that comes from these guidelines should be equally applied to both spouses.

Alimony for Men Advice

Even if your state is at the bottom of the list when it comes to alimony and child support, your battle is not lost. The number of women in the U.S. who are paying alimony to men is steadily growing. Alimony is designed to provide that bridge for one spouse to keep the households at a near-equal standard of living while the receiving spouse gets back into the workforce and financially independent. The need for the help is often driven by the amount of time the receiving spouse was out of the workforce, or untrained, based on joint decisions for the marital home.

This means that if you are the man in the marriage and are the one who stayed home to raise the kids for years and have been out of the workforce for a good period of time, you have a legitimate claim for alimony.

Regardless of your home state, if a divorce is likely, get proper legal counsel as soon as possible. Be sure to tell your attorney if you are the primary caregiver of the home and children, if your wife is the primary or only wage-earner, and if you gave up or deferred employment or educational opportunities to support your wife’s career goals.  Alimony for men is the new normal in divorce court. Get what you, and your kids deserve.  

 

Do you have first-hand experience with alimony? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Check out our series on The Alimony Chronicles, beginning with Part 1. And now’s the time to learn What Men Need to Know About Alimony and Taxes.

 

There are millions of stay-at-home dads.

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(c) Can Stock Photo / VILevi

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The Alimony Chronicles, Part 4 Exploring the Future of Alimony Reform

The Alimony Chronicles, Part 4 Exploring the Future of Alimony Reform

Welcome to the final chapter in our four-part series.  So far we’ve established in The Alimony Chronicles that spousal support is the payment of financial support, either in a lump-sum or periodic payments, from one spouse to another during a legal separation and after divorce. In this series, we’ve looked at the roots of spousal support, and the effects on husbands and wives.

In this, our final chapter, we will recap our previous installments by taking a broader look at alimony – how it works today, and what the future of spousal support may look like.

Changes In Family Law, Divorce Rates, and Average Age of First Marriage

The 1970’s brought dramatic changes in women’s rights and family law. spousal support was no longer automatically granted to the wife. Gender discrimination in awarding spousal support was banned, so alimony was not just for women anymore!

Women entered the workforce in ever-increasing numbers. Pay scales for women began rising. Changes in divorce law, especially the enactment of no-fault divorce in most states, led to a short-lived jump in divorce rates. After a big spike, the U.S. Census Bureau information shows a general leveling off of divorce rates by 2009.

In the 50’s, men were marrying at around 23. By 2009, the average age rose to 28 for men being married for the first time. The age of first marriage for women rose from 20 to 26 for the same time period.

So what does that have to do with alimony today?

Alimony Calculations

In Part 1 of this series, I mentioned that some states have rules for a judge to follow in calculating spousal support. In others, it is up to the discretion of the court. Other common factors include.

1. Ability to Pay

If alimony is on the table for either party, the first thing to be looked into is the person’s ability to pay. The court will determine how much is left from the spouse’s gross pay after deducting mandatory deductions like income taxes and social security.

Not everything coming out of a paycheck will be deducted by the court, so you can’t go by the amount of take-home pay. For example, if money is deducted from a paycheck for voluntary deductions or savings, those may not be considered mandatory deductions and will be included in the allowable total.

2. Ability to Earn

The court will look at the ability of both husband and wife to make a living. And not just how much the person is making now. There is a big difference between someone who can’t work and someone who refuses to get a job. The judge will look into that.

Earning capacity, the ability to make a living in the future, is an important factor in calculating spousal support. On the one hand, the amount of support to be paid is affected by the court’s idea of how much the payer should be earning over time. On the other, the court will also look into the ability and circumstances of the person getting alimony to figure out how long it should take for that person to become self-supportive.

Short-term or rehabilitative support is awarded for a set time period to allow the more dependent spouse to update skills and find employment. At some point the payments will definitely end, so the spouse on the receiving end is motivated to do what it takes to get a job.

In cases of real hardship, the person getting rehabilitative support can ask the court to extend the payment period. Judges will usually not grant an extension without proof of financial hardship. The goal is not to take advantage of the payer.

The paying party can ask to have payments stop before the end of the period ordered if the recipient becomes self-supporting ahead of the established deadline. It works both ways.

3. Custody of Children

While child support is a separate type of award in a divorce case, the custody of the couple’s children is taken into consideration by the court when awarding alimony. The judge may consider the age of the children, the number of children, and any special needs of the children. Also, depending on the circumstances, the court may also look at the cost of daycare if the custodial parent has to work. And if there is daycare available at all.

If the court decides it makes more sense for the custodial parent to stay home, at least for a while, there may be spousal support awarded.

Death and Taxes: Only Two Things Are Certain

Alimony payments stop when one or the other dies. Getting around this requires special terms to be spelled out in the divorce decree. However, if it was the person ordered to pay that dies, the receiving party who is owed unpaid alimony before the payor died can make a claim against the responsible party’s estate for funds owed.

As far as taxes go, spousal support has certain implications for both sides. While payors are eligible for a deduction in the amount of support paid, the recipient must also claim this amount as income. For an up-to-date expert explanation of how the IRS evaluates support payments, see our recent article, Alimony and Taxes, by Janet Berry-Johnson, CPA.

The Future of Spousal Support

Couples today are older, better educated, and more financially stable when they marry. The majority of married women work outside the home. Many of these women make as much or more than the husband.

Women are no longer seen as helpless and dependent. Staying out of the workforce to raise children doesn’t change this. The expectation is that most women are capable of supporting themselves after a divorce.

As in the 1970’s when the no-fault divorce was adopted from state to state, there is a movement growing today to reform legislation, or abolish alimony entirely.

A good example of dramatic reform is the 2014 bill signed by the Governor of New Jersey that made major changes to the way spousal support will be treated going forward in that state. The sweeping changes affect the amount and timing of payments.

  • For divorcing couples married less than 20 years, the period for support payments will not be longer than the length of the marriage except in unusual circumstances.
  • Spousal support can be ended when the paying ex-spouse reaches full retirement age.
  • Support can be terminated if the receiving spouse starts living with a new partner, even if they are not married.

Another example of significant reform is playing out today in Florida, where there is a bill in play that would change Florida’s allowable support  provisions. If passed, the new rules would require all judges to use the same set of formulas based on the length of the marriage and the couple’s income to calculate potential alimony awards, and also includes a provision to assist support payers with a way to determine if the spousal support recipient is avoiding work, or not working to his or her potential.

These are just two examples of the new wave of family law and alimony changes that will impact divorcing couples in coming years. Stay tuned to Guyvorce for divorce support and updates on the latest trends that will affect you.
Each chapter of this series can be read alone. But if you are new to the series, you may want to check out Part 1, where we looked at the earliest examples of family law from ancient times and how that carried through to laws today. Part 2  tackles the evolution of financial support for women. And Part 3 looks at the changing spousal support landscape from a man’s point of view.

 

Alimony is still a hot topic.

Remember to share on your social media.

 


(c) Can Stock Photo / zimmytws

Three Tips for Sane Communication in Divorce Your Go-To Game Plan for Dealing With the Ex

Three Tips for Sane Communication in Divorce Your Go-To Game Plan for Dealing With the Ex

If you are in the midst of separation and divorce, you may wonder, truly, if you are losing your mind in managing communication with your soon-to-be-ex. Although you should consult a therapist if you experience pervasive depression or anxiety, it is likely this state of mind is based on this stressful life transition. In order to maintain perspective, and keep your cool under pressure, for you and your kids, you need a way to manage your contact with the ex on a daily basis.

Your Ex Knows How to Push Your Hot Buttons

Sane communication in divorce doesn’t mean you need to be perfect. It means you need positive coping skills, which are just tools you use when facing a stressful situation and need to avoid escalating or worsening the problem that exists. If your spouse pushes your buttons, you need a response that doesn’t push back immediately, as that may continue or even escalate the conflict cycle.

You need a way to decompress on your own and then respond, with neutrality and civility, even when, in the moment, it seems impossible and undesirable.

Now, let’s be clear. The civil and neutral response to your spouse doesn’t mean you haven’t had the opportunity to understand how outrageous, toxic, ridiculous, petty, or mean-spirited their text, email, phone call, letter or pigeon courier message is.

It just means you will take the time to process the message, privately or with support, before responding. This is important because, if you have children, you will have many interactions with your soon-to-be-ex for years to come. If you can create a way to focus on what you most want, while recognizing that your soon-to-be-ex has priorities too and a real interest in your kids also, you can likely do better now and in the future.

Positive Coping Skills are Critical

Over time, and it may be a long time, you will find it is the only way to lessen the likelihood of your ex’s aggressive negative communication with you. And, even if it never stops, you will be in a better place for you and for your children. You can help your children cope with a contentious divorce.

But, really, how can you process what a disgruntled soon-to-be-ex communicates, and respond in a neutral fashion? This is when positive coping skills are critical.

Take the time, in the moment, to follow three simple steps to lower your escalation, decide upon a response, and then respond, if necessary. Keep this list handy–in your phone, on your bulletin board, in your head, so that it becomes a sort of reflex for you.

Remember, communication with your ex does not have to be viewed as a zero sum game in which only one of you wins. In fact, the goal, for your kids, should be allowing both of you the ability to serve your children’s best interests.

Your Sane Communication Game Plan

As with most of life’s most challenges, this is easier said than done. But, with a few effective tools, you can succeed if you stick to a simple game plan.

Tip 1: Understand the Message

What, really, are they asking you? Take a deep breath and slow down. Is it simply a statement of anger, confrontation or an attempt to shame you during a time of emotional overwhelm? If so, no response required. Simply save the communication in a manner that does not require you to repeatedly see it and move forward with your day. Is it time sensitive? Perhaps it’s a request about the kids or something else that requires a response within a reasonable time period. Even so, take time before you reply.

Tip 2: Reflect Upon the Statement

Process the communication before responding. If it’s only a statement of emotions, don’t dwell upon it. You cannot pretend it doesn’t exist but don’t allow yourself to become too “bogged down” in their emotion. Allow them to feel their own “stuff” and know that you don’t have to feel the same way. It is very easy to return to a negative engagement style you may have had as a couple rather than create a new plan moving forward in your new life. If you are angry at your spouse, that does not mean you need to express it. You should deal only with the matter at hand and not allow them the satisfaction, either, of they upset you.

If it’s a lot of emotion in their email, and a time sensitive matter, write a first response (don’t forget this is a draft) and don’t send it. Even if the ion was by telephone or text, it likely makes sense to summarize what they have said in writing and respond by email. It gives you more distance and a better record of a response than a verbal or text response and is likely more thoughtful too. Text messages, in general, should be used only for the most urgent ions as it is too easy to respond with too much emotion and too little thought.

First, write down what you are thinking but will never send. Don’t forget to remove their email address from the draft reply, as an accidental send is unhelpful. Then, delete the message. Now, frame your response to say only what is needed about the matter at hand and nothing else. Not allowing their emotional catharsis to be reflected back in your response is far more impactful than a response in kind. It is difficult in the moment but serves you much better in the long run.

Tip 3: Reply With a Short, Neutral Response

Remember, don’t respond if it’s simply an emotional diatribe about their feelings. It’s their issue and not yours.

If the message received requires a response, save a draft before sending it. Give yourself as long as you might have, even five minutes if that’s all you’ve got, to think about it. Return to the communication, finalize it and send it.

There is so much to process, intellectually and emotionally in divorce that having a “go to” plan for how you express yourself is key. Reacting in the moment is sure to add complications that are costly, often in legal and other fees and draining your already fragile emotional reserves. Give yourself the room–time and distance– to both process your reaction and not use it in your communication with your spouse.

Make certain you have your own support team when a message is so outrageous that it requires someone else’s eyes or ears. If it may impact the legal outcome, send it to your lawyer. More often, however, it may be information directed at you to make you feel bad. Asking a friend to read it, or just sharing it with them, may help.

In the event you have exhausted your friends and family or prefer not to do so, consider asking your divorce coach to help. A divorce coach can help you decide, based on the framework you’ve created at the beginning of the work you do together, how to best process, and then respond to, much of what you will experience in divorce. This is often even better than a friend or family member who means well, but doesn’t know how to help. A coach is on your side, never exhausted by your demands, and not charging a lawyer’s rates to help you create an effective plan when you do not need legal advice.

You Can Decide How to Proceed

Remember, you can decide how to proceed in your separation and divorce. You will never control your soon-to-be-ex spouse but you can control your response, which will, in the long run, help you manage yourself and your emotions better. In the long run, sane communication in divorce serves you and your children. Start right now to change the way you communicate in your divorce and you will see better results in the long run.

Cherie D. Morris is a Certified Divorce Coach/Life Transition Coach at www.DearDivorceCoach.com and a valued contributor to Guyvorce.com

Going through divorce is tough, and we’ve got your back. Read Hard Facts About How Men Deal with Divorce.  Need some comic relief?  Check out 4 Middle-Aged Divorced Guy Mistakes to Avoid Like the Plague.

 

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5 Mistakes to Avoid During the Divorce Process Or It Can Cost You More Than Money

5 Mistakes to Avoid During the Divorce Process Or It Can Cost You More Than Money

Divorces are hard on everyone involved – you, your (ex) wife, the children, and your extended family. Between trying to find a good lawyer, explaining everything to your friends and families, and setting up parenting schedules, the divorce process can be overwhelming. On top of that, you’re dealing with the emotional fallout of the divorce.

Your soon-to-be ex could have been the one that pulled the plug on the marriage and blindsided you. You could have been the one to serve the papers and now she’s begging and pleading with you to reconsider. And yes, even amicable divorces can have surprising difficulties that you’d never expect or plan for.

With that said, there are some things that you definitely shouldn’t do during the divorce process. Doing these five things can hurt you and make your divorce harder in the long run.

Move Out of the House

After you decide to divorce, it’s so tempting to just pack up your stuff, call up the nearest hotel, and head there for a few days. Perhaps you have both been fighting constantly. Maybe you’re just the type that needs space to think things through and get a game plan ready. Maybe your wife wants you out and has told you that you need to find somewhere else to go.

Even though this is your first impulse, don’t move out of the house if you have children.

Why?

This could potentially cripple you in a custody battle for your children. The court wants to see if you are a responsible adult, and more importantly, they want to know that your children aren’t being too negatively impacted by the divorce. They want to see that you are an active participant in their lives and they want to know that you’re helping your children cope with the divorce. As soon as you move out, you’re putting your need for space over your children’s need for their father. Your ex can use this as a way to show that she has always been the stable, caring parent and you’ve been more concerned with your own self-interests.

Along with that, if you regularly visit your children after moving out and the divorce proceedings go on for a long period of time, this schedule can be considered the “new normal” for the children. The judge is less likely to want to change the children’s lives and routines even more than they already are and so it will be much harder to convince them you deserve equal custody. Last of all, if you move out, you’re probably moving into a smaller apartment or house. For obvious reasons, the court system is going to want the children to stay in the larger house and they may even think your living arrangement is inadequate.

For all of these reasons, do not move out of the house. Remember, it’s half yours! You deserve to live there, too. If it makes life easier, move into the basement or into the guest room. Start creating a routine where you both interact with the children equally but separately. Try to be available to spend as much time with your children as you can. If you’re serious about getting custody of your children during the divorce process, you need to show the court that you can provide a safe foundation for them.

Put Off Finding a Good Lawyer

Lawyers are expensive but getting a good lawyer will save you both time and money in the long run. It could even save your relationship with your children! If you broke your leg, you wouldn’t expect to perform surgery on it yourself – so don’t try to make your way through the divorce process without a professional.

If you’re the one considering filing for divorce, before you even tell your spouse, you should consult with a lawyer about your financial situation, custody of your children, and any other relevant information that could impact the divorce process. If you’re not sure you have the money for legal fees, many lawyers will give you a free consultation so you can see where you stand.

Why is this important? Because divorces can be emotional and having someone’s impartial opinion will help you deal with the fallout (if there is any). They can give you advice about what paperwork to file, what to do if your spouse cleans out your bank account, and how to get custody of your children.

The same goes for if you’ve been served papers out of the blue. As soon as your wife tells you she wants a divorce, it’s time to lawyer up. The faster you do this, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

Talk to Your Ex About Anything Other Than Kids

It’s hard to get divorced. That bond you once shared with someone you loved has been broken, and for some people, it’s hard to come to terms with that. Some people say that getting divorced is harder than dealing with a death of a loved one. This is especially true if you didn’t expect the divorce or if your wife was cheating on you.

With that said, the fastest way you can get over your ex is stopping contact with her.

It sounds impossible, doesn’t it? The last thing you want to do is give her space. You’d like to talk about it until it makes sense to you. Perhaps you want to fight for her…or maybe you hate her and just want to get back at her. Whatever your motivation is, it’s not going to help you. You’re cutting your nose off to spite your face.

You’re allowed to feel whatever you feel – sad, angry, confused, depressed, guilty, or vengeful. These are normal reactions to loss. It would be more concerning if you didn’t feel any of them. But it’s important that you deal with those emotions without her participation. For you, that may mean looking into counseling, going to the gym, hanging out with your closest friends or going on a trip.

So, don’t contact her during the divorce process unless you are talking about your children and the logistics associated with the children. Don’t drunk text her. Don’t show up at her work and try to plead with her to come back. Don’t corner her in the house when you’re still living together and try to have a deep and meaningful conversation.

Especially don’t stalk her on Facebook or any other social media platform.

This makes you look weak and pathetic, which she could take advantage of (both in court and outside of it). On top of that, it’s not healthy behavior, and is prolonging the pain of the divorce.

So, if you’ve got kids, set up a parenting plan and custody plan and then follow it. All interactions should be through a court approved email system so that you can track your correspondence if something goes sideways. You can take turns going to your children’s events and picking your children up from school. All emails can be answered with “Yes” or “No”. Don’t go into any detail about your feelings or thoughts about this or that. Keep it professional.

Eventually, you may be able to find a middle-ground and perhaps even be friends. But initially, give yourself time to grieve the end of the marriage without having her front-and-center of your life. Use this time to separate yourself from her and the marriage.

Throw Yourself Into Unhealthy Habits

Sometimes the easiest solution isn’t the right solution.

When you’re in the midst of divorce, it’s hard to take care of yourself properly. You’ve probably got negative emotions floating around in your head and a lot of doubt and insecurity. You may have feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, and sadness. Along with that, you’re now living a new life with new habits, routines, friends, places, etc. It’s a lot to go through at one time.

A lot of people turn to unhealthy habits during this time of stress. For many men, it’s easier to self-medicate than to focus on their feelings and deal with them in healthy and productive ways.

Anything can be an unhealthy habit if you do it in excess. This can range from the usual culprits like drinking too much, turning to drugs, or eating too much. This can also be things that seem healthy like exercising a lot, spending hours gaming, and excessively working.

Whatever your vice is, the first step is to recognize it. Don’t live in denial and pretend you’re doing fine when you’re not. It’s not more macho to suffer silently. Instead, reach out and get help from friends and family, a group like AA, or a professional. These people can help you get back on track. You don’t want to hurt your children with your unhealthy habits…and most importantly, you want to move into your new life with strength, positivity, and perseverance. So use the divorce process as a way to change your life for the better.

Involve Your Children in the Divorce Process

Your children deserve to have happy childhoods. That’s all there is to it. As a parent, it is your responsibility to put your children first, regardless of what is going on in your life.

What does that mean exactly?

That means that in front of your children, you treat your ex with respect. Behind closed doors, you can hate her with every cell in your body….but in front of your kids, you keep it civil. Your children are also going through big changes and having you and your ex-wife at each other’s throats will hurt them. In fact, studies show that children whose parents have divorced are two to three times are likely to divorce after they get married. The rougher you make the divorce process for your kids, the more repercussions that will have on your children’s futures.

Of course, if there are legitimate problems with your ex’s behavior, you’ll need to have a conversation with her and work towards a mutual compromise. If talking to the ex doesn’t work, and you are concerned for your children’s safety, then it’s time to talk to your lawyer about taking action through the court system.

There’s no getting around the fact that telling your children horrible things about their mom will hurt their relationship with you in the long run. They’ll end up resentful that you put them between you and your ex. They’ll also have less respect for you. Ultimately, it will probably hurt your ability to co-parent successfully with your ex. If what you say gets back to her, she is less likely to work with you, and more likely to make things difficult.

So show up for your kids. Figure out a parenting schedule that works for you and your ex, keep it professional, and don’t say anything bad about your ex to your children. Those talks are for your buddies, therapist, and lawyer.

Getting a divorce is probably one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do in your life and while you’re in the middle of it, it feels like it will never end. But the better you handle the divorce process, the faster you can find a life that makes you happy again. If you follow avoid these five mistakes, you’ll be in good shape to start putting the pieces back together to rebuild your life.

What advice would you like to give other men going through the divorce process? What do you wish you had known when you first started getting divorced? Leave a comment below!

Having a hard time keeping your cool? Here’s 7 Reasons to Keep Your Mouth Shut When You’re Angry and The Real Man’s Guide to Anger Management During Divorce.

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(c) Can Stock Photo / Bialasiewicz

The Alimony Chronicles, Part 3 Men Are Finally Getting a Fair Shake

The Alimony Chronicles, Part 3 Men Are Finally Getting a Fair Shake

Welcome back to The Alimony Chronicles. We’ve come to the third of four parts. Today we’ll be looking at the impact of spousal support on men, then and now.

So far:

  • Part 1 was about the origins of family law and the different types of alimony in place today.
  • Part 2 tackled the evolution of financial support for women.

Yours, Mine – and All Mine

For much of recorded history, men were recognized as property owners. Not just the primary owners of real-estate, but agricultural produce, water rights, household goods, servants, children – and wives! These same laws also required a man to provide for his wife her entire life, whether he stayed with her or not.

Property laws changed with time. It became possible for women to own property, cash and land.

Unmarried or widowed women were allowed to manage their own assets. But most often a male relative was appointed to oversee a single woman’s holdings. She was a property owner in name only.

Once she married, her new husband assumed total control over his wife’s assets and property. He could dispose of them as he saw fit. It’s a doctrine called coverture. Coverture sounds crazy today. But it actually carried over into United States law, affecting alimony awards through the early 70’s.

Dollars and Cents

Property, family, and employment laws changed rapidly over the last 40 years. No-fault divorce laws were enacted throughout the country. And women entered the workforce in record numbers.

Data obtained from the 2012 census shows there were 82.9 million men and 74.8 million women in the workforce. Nearly half of all workers are women.

Today’s women contribute more to the household than ever before. They’re quickly becoming sole earners, too.

What It Means for Men

Permanent alimony (where spousal support is paid until either partner dies or the wife remarries) is no longer a slam-dunk for the wife. Today’s court-ordered support is more often rehabilitative or a  lump-sum – and listen up guys – it doesn’t always get paid by the husband!

Alimony for the Husband

The old saying, “Sauce for the goose is good for the gander” is certainly true when it comes to spousal support. Factors influencing family law judges of the past no longer apply only to women.

When Men Should Get  Spousal Support

If the marriage lasted less than a couple years, unless there are very extenuating circumstances, spousal support is not likely to be awarded to either side.

Generally, the longer the marriage, the better the chances that a judge will, at least, consider other factors that may warrant awarding alimony.

Income Disparity

Income disparity has always been a bonafide reason for spousal support. It’s a prime example of why support payments are not just ordered to be paid by men anymore.

A wife who has a much larger income that her husband, especially if he has sacrificed employment or promotional opportunities to support her education or career during the marriage, may be ordered to pay alimony.

Standard of Living

While both husband and wife may be employed, the husband may have spent years working a relatively low-paying job while the wife’s income allowed the couple to enjoy a much more expensive lifestyle.

A celebrity example was the marriage of successful actress Kim Basinger and makeup artist Ron Britton. Kim’s career and income skyrocketed during the eight-year marriage. When they divorced, Ron reportedly received $12,000 a month in spousal support for an unspecified period of time. Celebrity marriages aside, judges will consider the all the circumstances.

It would be a radical change for the husband to end up leaving a well-appointed home with amenities to move into a relative’s basement! In situations like this, the husband may be awarded a lump-sum settlement and/or a term of monthly payments to level the playing field and help him get established.

Stay-at-Home Dads

There are more stay-at-home dads than ever before. Some men are just better suited to handle the challenges of child-rearing than their wives. And some women are perfectly happy bringing home the bacon.

In many families, either parent would be enthusiastic to be the at-home caregiver, but the wife has better employment opportunities or benefits so it makes financial sense for the dad to be home while she works.

Sometimes the at-home parent decision was influenced by the economy. After the 2008-crash, the housing and construction industry tanked. In harder hit areas, it was all men putting kids on the school bus every day, because the mothers were the only ones still employed.

Assuming the wife makes enough money for an award to be feasible, a man who has been an at-home parent is a good candidate for spousal support for a period of time to enable him to update his skills and secure suitable employment.

Feasible is a key word here, because a judge will not award alimony for either side if it there is simply not enough money to go around, especially if child support will need to be provided.

Do The Math

As you can see, the factors for a family law judge to consider when awarding alimony are not gender-specific anymore.  Financial support is not awarded to punish one spouse or reward the other.

When it’s awarded, spousal support is determined based on the financial circumstances of the divorcing couple.

Today, the majority of married women are working. It is no longer unusual for the wife to be the primary wage-earner in the marital home. There are certainly more spousal support awards to men than a generation ago. But the frequency remains a small fraction of alimony awards overall.

Why aren’t more men seeking spousal support?

If the husband is the bigger breadwinner during the marriage, additional support for him may be out of the question. However, keep in mind that if the husband has full or primary custody of the couple’s children, the wife may still be ordered contribute to the children’s maintenance by way of child support.

Some men may still have the mistaken notion that financial support is only awarded to wives.

Some men may still have the mistaken notion that financial support is only awarded to wives. They just want to keep their head down and get the whole divorce thing over with as quickly as possible. They sign a no-fault settlement agreement provided by her side and consider themselves lucky they didn’t get nailed making monthly payments to her.

Male pride is a powerful factor preventing men from seeking alimony. In the privacy of the marital home, all things seemed pretty equal even if the wife has a much larger income.

Outside of the home is a different story. The idea of going into court and being described as the “dependent spouse” can feel emasculating, especially if the soon-to-be ex-wife already has a tendency to be insulting.

Hire a financial advisor who specializes in divorces to conduct a thorough financial analysis before entirely rejecting the idea of alimony. It may shed a new light on the subject!

Financial decisions in divorce negotiations, including discussions about spousal support, should be based on facts and sound legal advice.

And That’s Not All

Stay tuned for the last chapter in our series. We’ll look at the nuts and bolts of alimony and how it affects both parties. Don’t miss it.

 

Do you know any men who deserve spousal support?

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(c) Can Stock Photo / fizkes

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