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Linda D. States

Female breadwinners on the hook for spousal support

Female breadwinners in California are finding that spousal support may be their new reality when the dust settles from their divorce. According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers survey, 45 percent of lawyers had seen an increase in female breadwinners being held responsible for alimony over the past three years. An estimated 54 percent of lawyers saw an increase in mothers who were responsible for child support.

Where in the past it might have been the man responsible for paying spousal maintenance and child support, the times have changed. Women in high-paying positions are now seeing the roles reversed as more men take on child care and stay-at-home responsibilities. According to the Pew Research, 40 percent of U.S. families have female primary breadwinners. In 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a landmark case that alimony could be the responsibility of either party, and this has affected high-earning women.

Women might show reluctance to pay alimony, feeling that it is out of line with conventional norms. Some women have vocally maintained the position that men who are capable of working should be responsible for their own financial well-being.

Former spouses may take a creative approach, using alternative methods to meet the financial obligations they are on the hook for during a divorce. Examining alternative sources like IRAs and distribution of debt could be on the table as a part of divorce negotiations.

In cases where the woman is the primary breadwinner, a prenuptial agreement should be discussed among involved parties. An experienced attorney may help create an equitable prenuptial or divorce agreement. Consulting with an attorney may be empowering and educational in that everyone knows their rights in the event of a divorce.

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