Can a man really get alimony?

You can imagine the scenario: The wife has a promising career position with a great company. With her last promotion, she’s now bringing home over six figures. However, it’s been a different situation with the husband’s career. His industry has been stagnant for a decade and it’s been survival over advancement. After the second child, the decision was easy. He would stay home with the kids. But what happens when the family is divided by divorce?

Does the father receive alimony?

In most cases, no. According to census figures, only about 3 percent of those receiving spousal maintenance were men. And here’s the fascinating part: 40 percent of those households were headed by women.

Spousal maintenance law

Spousal maintenance (or alimony) provides the lower-earning spouse with permanent or temporary financial support to maintain a standard of living that was held during the marriage. This brings us back to the original question. When the man is the lower-earning spouse, is he entitled to spousal maintenance? The answer is yes, but is he likely to get it—or even ask for it?

The reality of spousal maintenance

Although many men fall into this situation where their spouse is the primary breadwinner, that doesn’t mean it’s an automatic that they will receive spousal maintenance. The reasons vary:

  • Men won’t ask for it. Pride can be a powerful thing. Asking for alimony can be perceived as showing weakness.
  • Possible gender bias. Gender roles have been in existence for a long time and are more difficult to overcome. Judges are human too and at times, these stereotypes live on.
  • Hardfighting, breadwinning wives. Successful women often fiercely fight against spousal maintenance. Many men will prefer to concede rather than fight back.

If you’re a man who is the lower earning spouse in a divorce, there is room for optimism. The number of American men receiving alimony is climbing, as states look to focus on financial need and not the sex of divorcing spouses when awarding spousal support. 

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