Because you shouldn’t be.
In an era of changing social economics where women are increasingly becoming the primary breadwinners for their households, the number of men receiving alimony is still remarkably low. According to the 2010 census, only 3 percent of the roughly 400,000 alimony recipients in the United States were men. This is shocking considering the fact that women make up around half of the work force, and 37 percent of married women have a higher income than their husband.
There are several factors that exist to help explain this discrepancy, but the single biggest factor seems to be men just aren’t asking for it. Jamie Kinkaid, a Cordell and Cordell attorney out of Omaha, has had trouble convincing her clients to ask for alimony, even when the circumstances were ideal.
“The last three cases I have had, I literally had to ‘beg’ the client to allow me to put in an alimony request,” Kinkaid said. “Women have become primary income and wage earners, but men are almost embarrassed to ask for it. Men need to be open to listening to all of the avenues available, and trust the attorney.”
The Purpose of Alimony
Alimony is not intended to be a long-term method of revenge on your ex-spouse, despite how it may be perceived (or sometimes feel like it’s applied). It is meant to correct the imbalances that develop when people make sacrifices for each other and then decide to split up. It isn’t fair to give up years of your career potential to take care of the kids during your marriage, only to find yourself back in an entry-level position while your ex reaps the rewards of advancing in their field after a divorce.
Any notions regarding what it means to be “manly” should be checked at the door if they prevent you from doing everything in your power to gain your entitled financial security. Just because women have historically received alimony does not mean it is degrading for a man to request it under the same circumstances.
It should be noted that several other important factors besides income differences are considered when it comes to alimony allotments, including:
- Earning potential — The income capacities of careers over the long term.
- Contributions to the marriage — Aspects such as whether one spouse helped put the other through college or quit their job to stay home and raise the children.
- Length of marriage — Longer marriages have a higher likelihood of lengthier, or even permanent, alimony payments.
- Fault — Some states can assign a blame for ruining the marriage under conditions such as adultery or abuse.
Other relevant details, such as age, health, lifestyle, property distribution or custodial parent status, can also play a role depending on the situation.
Overcoming a Gender Bias
One important obstacle that should not exist, but often does, is a gender bias against men making an alimony request. Although gender is not supposed to be taken into consideration as the laws are written, changing preconceptions can be challenging.
Samuel Sorensen, a divorce attorney from Salt Lake City, said it makes his job more difficult when this becomes a factor.
“There are many judges in and around my practice area that have an unspoken, or maybe unknowing, bias toward giving custody to the mom and making the father pay alimony,” Sorensen said. “Many practitioners play off of that bias, and it makes our job harder to get a fair shake in the courts.”
According to Kinkaid, the best way to overcome this partiality is through a “same facts, different sex” defense. Some attorneys may not feel comfortable making this argument, but the good ones will do what it takes to get their clients what they deserve.
Additionally, if you or your attorney feel alimony was denied or improperly awarded due to a gender bias, it is grounds for appeal — but you better have substantial evidence to support it. Sorensen said the best options are to employ vocational experts to evaluate earning potential and custody experts to evaluate the best interests of the children.
“It is an uphill battle, for sure, to get something reversed at the appellate level when it involves such a fact-sensitive determination. That is not to say it is impossible,” Sorensen said. “Many times, a decision will be overturned because the judge did not adequately base his or her decision in the statutory factors for custody or alimony. This is usually your best case for an appeal.”
It really all boils down to the fact that equality is a two-way street. Men should not be handicapped after a divorce because of cultural norms that are no longer relevant. If you are a man considering divorce or are in the process of divorce, make sure you discuss the topic of alimony with an experienced family law attorney to see if you qualify.
You shouldn’t settle for less than you deserve.