A Shift in the Economic Balance of the Family: Husbands Seeking Spousal Support From Wives

As women continue to make significant strides in the workforce, the stereotypical role of the “breadwinner” in the family is changing. No longer is the breadwinner always the man in the family. More than ever, increasingly more women are bringing home the bacon. 

According to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013, 29.3 percent of wives earned more than their husbands in families where both the wives and husbands have earnings. Further, as stated in a report from the White House Council of Economic Advisors, women are increasingly becoming more educated and make up a larger portion of the country’s workforce.

Economic Balance

This shift in the economic balance of the family is becoming more apparent than ever in the realm of family law. As more women become the breadwinner in the family, more husbands are requesting spousal support from their ex-wives as part of a divorce settlement.

In 1979, the United States Supreme Court held that a statutory scheme in Alabama which imposed a spousal support obligation on husbands, but not on wives, was unconstitutional, and that there should not be a gender bias when it comes to the issue of spousal support.  Although the law has recognized this shift for decades, society is still slowly catching up to the idea that it is acceptable for a husband to request spousal support from his soon-to-be ex-wife. 

Gender Neutral

Recently, headlines flashed across celebrity tabloids and news websites that actress Megan Fox and actor Brian Austin Green, famous for his role in Beverly Hills 90210 in the 1990s, were divorcing. But media attention over and above the divorce itself was given to the request Mr. Green filed with the Court seeking spousal support from Ms. Fox. The fact that Mr. Green was seeking spousal support from Ms. Fox became fodder for the tabloids shows that there is still a feeling within society that a man seeking support from a woman is not entirely acceptable.

Family law is gender neutral, and so are the laws related to spousal support. Spousal support is not gender-based, but is rather reflects such factors as a spouse’s ability to pay and to secure money for that payment, and the recipient’s need for spousal support.  Thus, a skilled family law attorney will help clients accept these facts, and ensure that stereotypical gender roles don’t prevent the end result in the divorce from being both fair and equitable.

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