Alimony Decisions and Gender Roles: Is the System Fair?

Many men think that the system is stacked against them in a divorce. Due to gender stereotypes or simply inertia, their perception is that women are favored in child custody decisions. Many men also believe they tend to get the short end of the stick in alimony or spousal support awards.

There seems little doubt that the Atlanta area has its share of men who share such beliefs and perceptions.

Overall, in terms of the law itself, it may seem like these men are over-reacting. Regarding the custody questions, the playing field is a lot more level than it used to be. “In this day and age, fathers have lots of rights,” Ken Altshuler, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, told the Wall Street Journal recently. “We have shared custody, and the law in most states is really gender neutral.”

But how does gender neutrality in theory translate into practice? Practice can be quite different from theory, especially when there has been so much change in gender roles in only one or two generations.

The question of alimony is a good example. If a marriage was a long-term marriage in which one party stayed home with the children for many years, a substantial spousal support award may well be in order. But if that party did little after the children left home to try to rebuild marketable skills, it becomes a tougher call.

In short, it is hard to make global statements about whether the divorce system favors women over men or men over women. This is because, even with lingering stereotypes, so many decisions come down to specific facts individual cases.

Source: “‘Divorce for Men’ Lawyers: Sports Mags, Paternity Test Info and More,” The Wall Street Journal, Jennifer Smith, 7-23-12

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