Marriages with Breadwinner Wives 50 Percent More Likely to Fail

wivesMen who are not the principal wage earners of their households or whose earning capacity is less than that of their wives face a considerably higher-than-normal risk of divorce.

This is among the conclusions presented in a study conducted by economists Marianne Bertrand, Emir Kamenica and Jessica Pan and published in a working paper of the National Bureau of Economic Research.[1]

Marriages where the wife earns more than the husband are up to 50 percent more likely to end in divorce than marriages where the husband is the dominant wage-earner. Furthermore, in marriages where the wife has a higher earning capacity than her husband, the wife is more likely either not to work at all or to secure employment in a lower-paying occupation, which may in turn create tension that feeds into marital instability.

In a marriage where the male earns less than the female, a divorce may result in the husband having the right to seek alimony or other similar financial contributions from his soon-to-be former wife. But what about the situation where the wife has purposely worked in lower-paying jobs despite having the qualifications to earn considerably more?

This is where a skilled divorce attorney may be able to make a difference on behalf of the divorcing husband.

Where permitted by state law, it may be possible to employ a vocational expert to establish a party’s actual earning potential and have that figure applied to the court’s alimony calculus. This may result in the reduction or possible elimination of a higher-earning husband’s obligation to pay alimony.

Of course, there may be additional factors that a court must take into consideration, such as the wife’s time out of the industry in which she has a higher earning potential, or other household contributions she made while “working downmarket.” This is why the engagement of an experienced family law attorney is critical when dual-income marriages – or marriages that could have been dual income – come to an end.

The right attorney will not only be able to assess the situation in light of the controlling laws but should also be able to partner with the right expert(s) to present a compelling argument that could impact the amount a divorcing husband may (or may not) have to pay.

[1] Bertrand, Marianne, Jessica Pan, and Emir Kamenica. Gender identity and relative income within households. No. w19023. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2013.

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