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More men are asking for spousal maintenance

More men are asking for spousal maintenance

When an Illinois marriage ends, the courts must decide whether or not spousal maintenance is appropriate. In the past, almost all maintenance awards were given to wives, but today an increasing number of men are seeking alimony payments. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of men receiving maintenance rose from 7,000 in 1998 to 13,000 in 2008, and that number continues to climb.

The purpose of alimony

In Illinois, a spouse may request financial help from the other as part of a divorce settlement. During a marriage, many couples rely on one income to run the household. The spouse that is out of the workforce can have difficulty getting back on his or her feet after a divorce without a regular paycheck to rely on. The courts consider several factors when determining whether spousal maintenance is appropriate, including the following:

  • The income of each spouse
  • The needs of each spouse
  • The current and future earning capacity of each spouse
  • The length of time it will take for the requesting spouse to obtain education or employment

A judge can issue a court order requiring one spouse to provide payment to the other either indefinitely or until he or she is able to earn a sufficient income.

A shift in the norm

For many years, spousal support was almost exclusively paid to wives. Over the past 20 years, however, women have begun to play a bigger role in supporting families, sometimes earning more than their husbands. Illinois maintenance laws utilize a formula to determine the amount and duration of alimony payments, and that formula requires that the higher-earning spouse provide financial support to the lower-earning spouse. With no rulings regarding gender differences, husbands are just as likely to be awarded support as wives. According to the president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, there has been a reduction of defined gender roles regarding legal opportunities, leading more men to pursue their rights in the courtroom.

The role of the economy

As the nation continues to recover from the recession, some male-dominated industries are still struggling to return to the levels they were at before the bubble burst. Men in finance and construction are finding themselves facing lower income or even unemployment, resulting in wives taking on the role of breadwinner. This dependence on wives often continues on after the dissolution of a marriage, when the husband needs the spousal support to run a separate household.

The role of men and women in the workforce and in the home continues to change, creating new dynamics both at home and in family law courtrooms across the country.

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