There is a growing trend in Maryland that closely mirrors the same trend nationwide. As gender roles continue to change and women increasingly become the higher wage earners in American families, the number of instances in which a divorcing wife is forced to pay alimony to her former husband continues to rise. Most Maryland divorce attorneys would agree that it is far more common these days to see the typical alimony relationship reversed.
According to a recent article on Yahoo.com (Tables Turned: Higher Earning Women Now Paying Alimony to Ex-Husbands, Oct. 3, 2012) women are now the top wage earners in one-third of all marriages. This figure coincides with a number of employment statistics that indicate that the gap in earnings between men and women in the same industries is steadily shrinking. It also coincides with more liberal maternity leave policies in both the private and public sectors, meaning that women no longer have to choose between being the breadwinner and being a mother. When one considers that roughly fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce these days, it is not hard to imagine that a significant percentage of husbands are collecting alimony checks.
Alimony is a legal construct designed to put a lower earning divorced party in roughly the same financial position as that party would be if the marriage had remained intact. During a marriage, each party acquires a familiarity with a certain quality of life associated with the joint earning potential of both parties. If the lower earning party no longer can enjoy the benefits of the primary breadwinner’s income, it may place the lower earning party in a disadvantageous position wherein they are suddenly forced to live solely off their own income. If this lower earning spouse does not have the training or education to obtain satisfactory employment and return their lifestyle to the level it was before, the courts may instruct the higher earning spouse to divert some of their income to the lower earning spouse. These payments may either be temporary or permanent, and may be subject to modification as circumstances change.
According to the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers, fifty-six percent of law offices that handle divorces are experiencing an increase in instances where the ex-wife is instructed to pay alimony to the ex-husband. Forty-four percent of the same law offices are experiencing no significant change. None of the law offices that were polled reported seeing a decrease in the instances of wife-to-husband alimony payments.
Many lawyers attribute these statistics to the removal of any stigma associated with husbands requesting alimony. As the number of female higher wage earners continues to increase, so too should the stigma lessen. It is also notable that alimony enforcement agencies are just as vigilant in enforcing payments from female divorcees. If you are a male lower wage earner seeking alimony from your wife, or if you are a high earning female seeking to lessen or eliminate alimony payments to your husband, contact a Maryland family law firm for a consultation.
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