Evolving gender roles lead to alimony reform

When married couples in New Jersey decide to end their marriage, one spouse typically becomes responsible for providing financial support for the other spouse. In most divorce cases, the woman is the recipient of alimony payments, usually because she has left the workforce to care for the couple’s children. However, for some divorcing couples, that isn’t the case.

As traditional gender roles become less defined, several states have been pushing for alimony reform. The number of men who choose to stay home to raise children and run day-to-day household operations has increased in recent years. Now that many women earn as much as their husbands, if not more, some women are facing unwelcome consequences of their professional success: lifetime alimony payments. That’s one reason for several states’ proposals to reform spousal support.

Whether they’re paid by men or by women, lifetime alimony payments can severely limit a person’s opportunities for saving for retirement or even remarrying. In fact, many second wives, who find that their hard-earned income is supporting their husbands’ first wives, are supporters of alimony reform legislation.

As the roles of men and women continue to evolve, it is likely that many states, including New Jersey, will take a serious look at alimony reform. However, legislation meant to relieve former spouses of burdensome alimony payments could have a negative impact on divorced women who chose to put their careers aside in favor of devoting their time to their children. People who have decided to end their marriage may want to work with an attorney who can help them reach agreements that favor both spouses as well as any children involved.

Source: TIME, “The De-Gendering of Divorce: Wives Pay Ex-Husbands Alimony Too,” Liza Mundy, May 16, 2013