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Spousal support breaks gender stereotypes

Monday, July 16, 2018

Over several years, divorce in Texas and across the country has dismissed presumptions about gender. For example, courts no longer presume that granting custody to mother is in the child's best interest.

Courts are also dropping the presumption that men earn more than women. Over the last 10 years, women have been ordered to pay spousal support, nicknamed manimony, to their former spouses.

Men traditionally paid any alimony so that their former spouses could support themselves. Before manimony, spousal support was also viewed as compensation for wives who did not participate in the workforce but assumed most of the responsibilities for taking care of the children, housework and other domestic work. Alimony was also viewed as payment for women who sacrificed a career to care for their families and assume these duties.

However, this changed in 1979 when the U.S. Supreme Court addressed a case where a man claimed he was struggling to make spousal support payments. The Court ruled that a law could not be based upon the outdated notion that it was the man's responsibility to provide a home and pay for other essentials. Spousal support had to be gender neutral and based upon financial need.

It was presumed that manimony was paid only by wives who were celebrities or extremely wealthy. Only three percent of men received spousal support in 2010. However, this may change because women are the primary earner in 40 percent of households with children and participate more in the workforce.

This gender equality, however, is criticized as adding financial burdens to women who not only out earned their husbands but also performed most of the family's emotional and domestic labor and spent more time taking care of their children. In some cases, the couples even paid for domestic assistance so that the wife could earn money.

Nonetheless, it is likely that this support will continue to cover families who earn average incomes. Rulings will be based upon financial need of the spouses despite criticism that a spouse assumed other greater responsibilities.

An attorney can help assure that a divorce decree is a fair and reasonable. Qualified lawyers can provide options on support and fight for a spouse's rights.

Source: Brides, "What is 'manimony' and how does it affect women," By Lea Rose Emery, March 16, 2018

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