The U.S. Department of Labor reported in 2010 that women accounted for 47 percent of the workforce. The BOL also projected that women would make up the majority of the workforce by 2018 -- not a large majority (just 51 percent), but a majority nonetheless.
And yet, when it comes to spousal support, nationwide Census data tells us that only 3 percent of the recipients are men. Why the imbalance?
Apparently, "traditional" gender roles are to blame. For the attorney author of a book about divorce, husbands, even stay-at-home dads, see asking for alimony (in Minnesota, the term is "spousal maintenance") as unmanly. The sentiment is the equal and opposite response of women that are asked to pay: Women will fight the suggestion tooth and nail.
On the other hand, husbands that are the primary breadwinners expect to support their exes on either a temporary or a permanent basis.
Husband and wife, however, do not decide these matters; the court does. And while some states have maintenance schedules that take into account income and length of marriage, many do not.
In Minnesota, for example, the judge will consider financial resources, any extra training needed to reenter the workforce, standard of living during the marriage and other factors before making a decision about the amount and duration of maintenance. What the judge will not think about is fault. Spousal maintenance is not meant to be punitive.
Nor will the judge fall victim to gender bias -- for the most part. The attorney author points to a southern state where gender bias is truly entrenched. A tendency for gender bias may be courtroom by courtroom, state by state, or region by region, but it does exist.
Of course, not every divorce ends with an order for maintenance, even if one spouse -- whether husband or wife -- would be entitled to it. In some cases, gender bias has absolutely nothing to do with it. Those husbands and wives see divorce as a way to start fresh, free of the marriage in every way.
Source: Forbes, "Why Do So Few Men Get Alimony?" Emma Johnson, Nov. 20, 2014
For a more in-depth discussion of spousal maintenance in Minnesota, please see our article, "Spousal Maintenance And Asset Division During A Recession."