When many people in Phoenix hear the term "alimony," they may think of an ex-wife receiving monthly support payments from her ex-husband. However, alimony or spousal support obligations have been gender-neutral since a ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978. Instead of being dependent on the gender of the partner with the higher income, spousal support determinations are based on the economic and financial makeup of the marriage. This is especially true when one partner stays home to raise children or care for the house. While this has traditionally been a gender role ascribed to women, an increasing number of households across the country have a female breadwinner.
Approximately 40 percent of all American households have a woman as the higher-earning spouse. When a marriage ends in divorce, this can lead to an ex-wife paying spousal support to her ex-husband. A survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 45 percent of lawyers had seen an increase in the number of women paying spousal support. The number of male recipients of spousal support continues to be low but is on the rise. In 2010, only 3 percent of the estimated 400,000 recipients of alimony payments were male.
Many lawyers have also noted a rise in the number of women paying child support, a figure that accompanies the larger number of female breadwinners and male primary caregivers. Over half of the attorneys who responded to the survey said that they saw more child support orders directed towards mothers.
When a couple decides to divorce, the end of their relationship is not only emotional and personal: It is also financial. A family law attorney may help a divorcing spouse protect their rights at the end of a marriage and work to achieve a fair settlement on spousal and child support, asset division, child custody and other major issues.