Is Spousal Support Still Necessary?

April 2, 2012  |  

Every time I read a story about some celebrity woman taking her husband all the way to the bank and back with alimony on top of child support, I can’t help but stop and ask, what are you being paid for exactly? I fully understand the history of  spousal support. Throughout the centuries of stay-at-home mothers and housewives, women would have essentially been in the poor house if they didn’t receive financial assistance from their ex-husbands due to societal beliefs about a woman’s place being in the home. But newsflash: it’s not 1950 anymore, and for that reason I find spousal support a difficult financial obligation to justify in this day and age.

Alimony, of course, is no longer just a price men pay for being the breadwinners in a relationship that’s gone south. In the 1970s, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against gender bias in alimony awards and a small increase in the number of men seeking such payment was seen. Although there is still some stigma associated with the idea of a women supporting her ex-husband, as we see with men like Gabriel Aubry who wasn’t even married to Halle Berry, some guys have no problem with a woman fronting their lifestyle. We’ve known for years most ex-wives of successful men take absolutely no issue with making a man pay for her needs long after they’re out of the picture.

The idea of making someone pay is what alimony has been reduced to in a lot of ways. Outside of “no-fault” states, sort of the understood obligation of having to pay alimony is that you are the one who caused the breakdown of the relationship, now it’s going to literally cost you, quite possibly for the rest of your life. While the rules vary from state to state, in a lot of cases, being married for 10 years entitles you to permanent alimony until the day the payor dies. That’s a big price to pay for failing in a relationship. If the woman was the one who did wrong, oftentimes her right to claim alimony is seen as fore-fitted. I know most laws are based on simple moral standings but the reasons a couple decides to end their marriage and establishing right and wrong in a divorce isn’t exactly as cut and dry as murder, for example. It seems a little odd the law can penalize someone for perhaps not making the best choices in their relationship, even if they don’t necessarily impact the overall social order.

The other part of spousal support is the idea that the dependent spouse should be able to maintain the lifestyle he or she became accustomed to during the marriage after it ends—at the cost of the financially stable spouse. My question is why? Divorce isn’t one of those things that happens over night. In the time that both parties are giving depositions and going through the course of litigation, ideally there is plenty of time to, I don’t know, find a job. It’s not as though someone can spring divorce papers on you tonight, and you’ll be out on the street tomorrow. And as far as maintaining a certain standard of living goes, I feel that’s one of the perks of being a dependent spouse that goes out the window sort of like having someone to cuddle up next to at night. Sure, it was nice to enjoy fine dining seven nights a week and have a maid and a housekeeper while you were married, but if you can’t afford those things after you part ways, I would hardly consider that the end of the world. It’s no wonder tons of marriages end up to be nothing but financial contracts in many situations, look at the way divorce is handled.

The state of today’s economy is one factor that makes me think spousal support may still serve a purpose. With so many people struggling to find jobs, it would be unfortunate to be a stay-at-home spouse and find yourself suddenly divorced and unable to find employment. However whatever assistance is provided should be temporary. Rehabilitative alimony, as they call it, which is support given to a lesser-earning spouse for a period of time necessary to acquire work outside the home and become self-sufficient, should be the standard in spousal support cases, not the exception. In life there are some mistakes that you have to pay for forever, but I don’t think a failed marriage is one of them, especially when there is likely no one thing that can be pinpointed as the ultimate cause of the breakup. More than that, there is simply no excuse for any able-bodied person not to work and support themselves like any other single American has to do. If you want to live a certain lifestyle you need to go out and make it happen not wait for the check from someone else’s hard-earned living to roll in.

What do you think? Is spousal support still necessary in this day and age?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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  • Am3lya_tandi

    I agree 100% with this article, I couldn’t write better if I tried. Child support yes, but alimony…

  • Topup

    I read an article about more and more bw paying spousal support due to the state of bm unemployment situation. With more and more bw being “head of household“ i believe it

  • Suede Jenkins

    I don’t know why any man would want to get married in this day and age.  The system is set up in such a way that you lose for the rest of your life.  Then you have smart women (and lawyers) out there taking advantage of it.  That’s why you should have to renew your marriage every 3 to 5 years just like a drivers licence.  If everything is cool great!  Pay $25 or $30 to renew the marriage license and move on if not the marriage is null and void and you both move on with your lives.  This is TOTALLY separate from child support but, that does bring up another issue.  Why is it the woman automatically gets the children.  The man only gets the children if the mother is a drug abuser and even then it aint cut and dry.  Marraige is an outdated concept that most people don’t take seriously.  But I don’t believe that because you were dumb enough to get married that you should pay for that mistake for the rest of your life.  I get very excited when I see a man get money off of the woman because, I think good it goes both ways but men don’t get the payout that most women get.
      I got a lil’ story, wanna here it?  Here it go…  I knew this guy he was a pilot in the Army.  He’d been in for 23 years and decided he was going to retire.  As soon as he put in his paperwork for retirement his wife decided she wanted a divorce and becasue she was already married to him for over 10years the Army entitled her to half of his retirement.  She didn’t go to Iraq 3 times and Afghanistan twice.  She didn’t have her plane shot at everyday.  She didn’t have mortars dropping down all around her every other day not knowing if one was gonna hit her.  She didn’t have to leave her country and the creature comforts of life to go fight in a God forsakened desert.  She didn’t get shot in the leg.  He was blindsided by her.  He had no idea she wanted a divorce he had talked about plans they had made for when he retired (traveling  and what not).  He already purchased tickets to Fiji.  That’s foul.  Now if spousal support is needed well then it should be looked at on a case by case it shouldn’t be automatic.  Some woman that supported her husband while he was trying to become a lawyer posted some stuff on here.  I do agree she deserves some money.  I have a funny feeling that with her ex’s success came other women.  Women that kept themselves sexy and still cared how they looked.  Being a stay at home mom/housewife isn’t a glamorous job but if that’s what you do in the marriage then I think you should get sposal support but, it shouldn’t be for the rest of your lives.  Unfortunately people change for better or for worse we all do and sometimes that means we fall out of love.  It sucks when one persons in love and the other isn’t anymore.  It’s hard on both parties but, you shouldn’t have to pay for the rest of your life because the person you thought was your partner for life isn’t.  Falling out of love isn’t a crime… it’s a shame and it’s sad.         

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  • Silverspringchic

    Here’s what I want to know…. If there is no alimony what advantage is there for a man to stay with a woman if he can just up and leave……. More improtantly, how are you any different than a baby momma.

    One of the primary reason to get married was the “security” factor aka alimony. Take that away, no need to ever get married. What then will we do to convince a young woman to get married, what benefits are there???

    • Studentlife

      Alimony is NOT a reason to get married! It’s a reason to get divorced! If your only reason for going into a marriage is that you will get alimony when it’s over then you have serious problems.

  • Tagirl

     Of course spousal support is necessary. There are plenty of women who are house wives(yes, they still do exist) and it’s important for them to be taken care of after the divorce. In some cases, they pay spousal support for the length of years the couple was married. Now in situations like Kobe where his ex got half, I don’t think she should get additional spousal support. That’s a bit much.

    In Nas’ situation, they weren’t married that long, I kinda feel that he got a raw deal. But if J-Lo had to pay $11mil for shy of a year of marriage then I guess.

  • Lalatarea

    no offense but u were kind all over the place with this piece anyway… underneath the love and commitment etc marriage IS a business it is a legally binding contract! which is why i believe EVERYONE should have a prenup that doesn’t mean ladies u won’t get anything but that all the money and everything is worked out.
    if every marriage is different and between the people who are in the marriage do whatever they decide is their prerogative.

  • all curls

    i raised our children and helped put my husband through law school and the marriage went south soon after he made partner.  we decided as a couple that i would not pursue additional education or a career so that our children would be raised by me and not a nanny.  So that i could be a classroom parent and invest personal time in our children’s hobbies and extracurriculars.  now that’s he’s successful, why shouldn’t i be entitled to the fruits of BOTH of our labor?  Spousal support is not just for “lazy” people looking to spend someone else’s well earned money.  We decided at the beginning of our marriage how we wanted our family situation to be, and i ended up putting a lot of trust in my financial security in my partner who i vowed to be with until death.  It didn’t work out.  Yes he is a successful attorney and he did that with his own intelligence and charisma, but because of my sacrifice we have successful children.  Though i didn’t raise my children with the expectation of being paid, i think it’s ridiculous for someone to think that I should just forget about the last twenty years and just “make my own” fortune from scratch

    • Am3lya_tandi

      you said it, they are YOUR children too, why should you get paid for raising your own children. You are lazy and you should have been smart enough to think about the possibilities of a break up, yeah it sucks to think about divorce when you’re getting married but it’s 2012… Go make your own money and stop being a parasite.

    • LivingmylifelikeitsGolden

       I wont be harsh to say lazy but not to have your own stash im sorry but i will never depend on a man for nothing . Anyone who want you to em better you would encourage you to do so .  i agree with Brande Rehabilitative alimony should be the way to go !!!

  • Mls2698

    A woman once told me, ” I don’t know anybody who gets alimony.” And I will say to that: How could she know when she spent seven years living with her boyfriend, as do most women. I’m not living lavishly, but I tap those pockets by way of a signed separation agreement, and divorce. My ex wanted to be with his “married” lover so bad that he signed the agreement my LAWYER wrote up, not me. My agreement states that I get those funds until I die, he dies, or if I remarry. It also states that said funds could be cut off if I live for a period of a year with a man ( not the shacking type). I’m currently in school, so I could care less about marrying. Why would I give up a good thing, anyway? Been getting it for five years!

  • Beauty

    Yes i agree with spousal support and it all depends on the sistuation, how many children are involved and etc….I also agree with the fact that it should be given for a certain amount of time let’s say for maybe 15years, (again depending on the sistuation it should be shorter or longer). 10years go by in a blank of an eye, so that is y i say 15years. A divorce takes a lot to get over, and alot of readjusting. In a way i am happy that spousal supports exist, it keeps people from making the same foolish mistake over and over again.

    • OK just so we are clear There is a difference between child support and alimony. There may be a tiny fraction of people who need it but 99% are doing it to cause heartache and headache to the ex. You even said it will teach them a lesson . SCARE TACTICS! SMH…

  • Pivyque

    I think it is ridiculous. Spousal support should be available if the ex spouse has no job experience, is actively looking for the job and has custody of the kids. IF they qualify, they should get enough to live on, not enough to live lavishly on. 

  • Nope

    Spousal support is one of those Convenient Rights things that most women wouldn’t mind opting into.

  • LaLaLaMeansILoveYou

    Ask Bernadine from “Waiting to Exhale” that question 🙂