People here in Georgia often associate alimony with an image of a wealthy man paying spousal support to his unemployed ex-wife. This traditional vision, however, is nothing but a stereotype. In fact, in many cases both the payer and payee of alimony work, but there is a substantial difference between their incomes or between their abilities to earn an income. Additionally, in this day and age, it is becoming more common for women to be the payers of alimony. According to the Pew Research Center, the woman is actually the higher income earner in about 37 percent of married couples with children.
Actress Eliza Coupe, who most recently appeared on the television series "Happy Endings," was recently subjected to an alimony request from her husband. Her husband, acting coach and teacher Randall Whittinghill, filed for divorce last month and requested spousal support.
Celebrity actresses, however, are not the only women who can be required by a court to pay spousal support to their exes. Here in Georgia, courts general base their alimony decisions on the financial needs and abilities of both parties. They consider a number of factors when determining how much alimony should be paid and for how long, and gender is not one of these factors.
Despite the fact that women are the higher-earners in so many relationships, it is still somewhat rare for men to request alimony during divorce. U.S. Census Bureau data shows that only about 3 percent of divorcing men are receiving alimony.
In 2010, about 380,000 women received alimony while only 12,000 men did.
One reason for this discrepancy may be the fact that a number of men see it as a weakness to request spousal support. In some cases, their pride might get in the way of protecting their interests by obtaining alimony.
Men who may qualify for spousal support should not be ashamed to go after it. Oftentimes, men decide to take on the role as a lower-earning spouse in the marriage in order to have the time and energy to keep the household running. Once that household is split during divorce, it is important that such men do not face avoidable financial worries as a result of their earlier sacrifices.
Men and women should discuss their rights, options and priorities with their family law attorneys to decide whether alimony awards would be appropriate.
Source: The Daily Mail, "Not such a Happy Ending: Actress Eliza Coupe's husband files for divorce after her hit show is also cancelled," July 2, 2013
Source: Huffington Post, "Why Don't More Men Ask for Alimony?" Joseph E. Cordell, June 26, 2013