The term alimony can bring to mind stereotypical situations. A stay-at-home mom who raised children in lieu of a career is awarded a monthly stipend from her ex. An angry wife fights for alimony to make her cheating spouse “pay” on multiple levels.
These cliches do not represent the current role spousal maintenance plays in a New York divorce. Men are also increasingly asking for – and receiving – alimony.
More Women Are Breadwinners
Women are earning college degrees and entering the workforce. According to the Pew Research Center, 46% of U.S. women between the ages of 25 and 34 have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 36% of men. Women still earn 83 cents for every dollar men earn, but they are increasingly becoming primary earners in their families. A minority of men need alimony when a marriage ends, but their numbers are growing.
In 2010, U.S. Census records showed that 3% of those receiving alimony were men. That percentage is undoubtedly on the rise. Almost half of the attorneys surveyed by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers said they are experiencing more female clients paying support to ex-husbands. The same survey also cited more women are paying child support to fathers. Outdated stereotypes may be losing their grip on the family court.
Spousal Maintenance Is Gender Neutral
Spousal maintenance goes by many names throughout the U.S., including spousal support and alimony. No matter the colloquial or legal term used, support was primarily meant for women until a landmark case went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In Orr v. Orr, the nation’s high court ruled 6-3 in 1979 that statutes only requiring men to pay alimony to women violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The case involved William and Lillian Orr of Alabama who divorced in February 1974. William was ordered to pay Lillian $1,240 monthly in alimony. When we stopped his required payments, she sued him in July 1976. In response, William said the statutes were unconstitutional because they only require husbands to pay alimony. The local circuit court ruled against him and so did the Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama.
The case eventually made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling said that classifications by gender had to serve important governmental objectives. Alabama’s and similar state gender-based statutes were unjustified. Financially vulnerable spouses of all genders should be eligible for spousal maintenance.
Spousal Maintenance Guidelines in New York
The court has the authority to award spousal maintenance after the divorce is final. Maintenance is always paid by the higher-earning spouse. The judge applies a maintenance calculation (one for couples with children and one for couples without) based on both parties’ net incomes. Additional factors that can be considered include age, health, future earning capacity, and the standard of living during the marriage.
Spousal support can be awarded to one spouse before the divorce is officially filed. Once the dissolution action is underway, the support is called temporary or pendente lite maintenance.
Seek Fair Support from an Ex-Spouse
Discuss your spousal support or maintenance case with us in a confidential consultation. Schedule by calling (516) 584-4685 or reaching out online.