Woman in a suit

Wait, What? Yep, Women Pay Alimony, Too

Is your soon-to-be ex-husband asking for alimony or spousal maintenance?

Actually, you are not alone, women pay alimony, too.  Official and current statistics don’t exist, but in my experience and in an informal survey of attorneys and mediators in my circle, it’s not only happening but in fact, women who will have to pay alimony is on the rise.  I see it in about ten percent of cases, which makes sense, as according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women are now the primary breadwinners in one-third of all marriages.

I find that while men aren’t happy to pay alimony, they aren’t exactly surprised either.  Women are shocked and furious.  Here is a sampling of the reactions I hear to the news:

“His attorney said they would ask for alimony.  Can they DO that?”

“I make more now, but he could make more money if he tried.  He’s just lazy.”

“Why should I pay him money to sit on his a**?!?”

Under what circumstances would you have to pay alimony?

If you make a lot more money than he does, and you’ve been married for more than 10 years, prepare yourself for the possibility that you will be paying him maintenance.  You might have been working harder all through the marriage, but unfortunately that’s not how it works.

What may seem like a horrible injustice is actually just (mostly) math.

In New York state (as with many others), there are guidelines and a formula to follow.  A great tool to use to get a sense of things is to check out this online calculator.

However, that’s just a place to start. The courts do look at other factors when making a decision about support, including:

• the length of the marriage

• each spouse’s age and health status

• each spouse’s present and future earning capacity

• the need of one spouse to incur education or training expenses

• whether the spouse seeking maintenance is able to become self-supporting

• whether caring for children inhibited one spouse’s earning capacity

• equitable distribution of marital property, and

• the contributions that one spouse has made as a homemaker in order to help enhance the other spouse’s earning capacity.

It sounds fair if you aren’t living it.  What is not in the formula?

• If he cheated on you

• If you were a saver and he spent all your money

• If you already feel he’s been sponging off you for years

• If he’s underemployed or worse, unemployed and you still do more of the cooking and cleaning around the house.

Unfortunately, the “fairness” of it all can’t be quantified nor corrected by the courts. In trying to create an equitable system, it turns out that lazy husbands can look to you for alimony or maintenance during separation proceedings. The simple reality is, sometimes women pay alimony too.

What to Do Now

If you are unsure of how your divorce will affect you financially, help is available.

A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) can work with you to project the financial implications of your divorce, while your attorney focuses on the legal issues. Setting a realistic budget and understanding the tax and investment details before your divorce is finalized will allow you to start off on the right foot financially.

Sara Stanich is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) practitioner and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA™) based in New York City. She specializes in helping parents understand their options and make informed decisions surrounding the financial aspects of divorce.  Learn more or schedule a free consultation at PowerOverDivorce.com. 

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