“You’ve never heard complaints about paying child support until it’s a woman who has to pay it.”–Seattle Family Law Attorney Lisa Scott

“The only way to abolish alimony is to make women pay it.”–Tom Leykis, nationally-syndicated talk show host.

When men work hard to support their families, they’re often accused of victimizing their poor wives who have to stay at home, chained to their children. The National Organization for Women and other feminist groups often argue that these men don’t deserve joint custody after divorce because they “never took primary responsibility for raising their kids while they were married.” When divorce comes and men have to pay child support and alimony, they dare not complain, or they’ll be accused of disrespecting their long-suffering ex-wives who sacrificed their careers for their families.

So if men who are primary breadwinners can’t win, what about men who are primary caregivers? As usual with the gender wars, men can’t win here, either. Primary caregiving men are often looked upon with contempt by society and sometimes their wives, while their value as caregivers is short shrifted, as mom is still the “real” parent.

(Example–I’ve been my kids’ primary caregiver for the past nine years, but whenever there’s a new employee at my kids’ schools, they call my wife at her office during the day if one of our kids is ill and needs to go home early.)

(Another example–I recall a meeting at my son’s school several years ago when a visiting female administrator walked in, warmly greeted my wife, and then looked at me and asked, “And who might you be?” I felt like replying, “The person who’s taken my kids to school, picked them up and done their homework with them every day, as well as having gone to every single Parent Conference/Back to School Night/Open House for the last I don’t know how many years.” I stifled it and just replied “I’m the dad,” at which point she said hello and then turned to my wife and began explaining the issues my son was having. I wish I had it on film.)

(One more example–A little while ago I actually read a feminist blogger criticize me for victimizing my poor, hard-working wife and sponging off of her, a phrase I’ve never heard her use when describing a woman who both works full-time and is the primary caregiver for her children. For the record, I earn a living with my writing, etc., and my wife wants to be a stay-at-home mom about as much as she’d like to test experimental parachute designs.)

As the press release below shows, when divorce comes, primary caregiving men had better not dare ask for child support or alimony, or they’re not “real men.”

Funny how when dad is the primary breadwinner, it’s poor mom who is the burdened one, yet when mom is the primary breadwinner, all of a sudden she’s the hard-working hero and dad is a lazy bum. In reality, despite the “lazy husband” myth, research clearly shows that both men and women contribute an equal number of hours towards their households–to learn more, see my co-authored column Are American Husbands Slackers? (Tallahassee Democrat, 3/22/06).

Unlike many in the men’s and fathers’ movement, I believe that alimony does have a place. I believe alimony is warranted when one partner–male or female–really has put aside or cut back his or her career to be the primary caregiver for his or her children, and is economically disadvantaged because of it. I certainly think alimony can be abused, usually by women but occasionally by men.

Below is a new press release I just received from www.WomenPayingSupport.com. In their view, men who receive alimony are lazy bums, and they attempt to shame men out of it by using the phrase always used to get men to do something which is not in their best interest–“Be a Man.” That being said, the ladies may well have a legitimate grievance. But if we’re going to tackle the inequities of divorce and family law in order of importance, we have many, many problems to tackle before we get all the way down to the problem of women paying alimony.

Women are Increasingly Paying Spousal Support;
WomenPayingSupport.com Launched

You don’t have to be as successful as Britney Spears or Reese Witherspoon to fear getting sued for alimony. Like the founder of WomenPayingSupport.com, more women today are obligated to pay their ex-husbands some form of financial support. Call it the dark side of the liberation coin.

SACRAMENTO, Calif., October 18, 2007 – The picture of equality looks awfully strange to a 36-year old State of California worker and business owner. (AKA “Ms. Bread Winner”.) She pays her ex, a 41 year-old fellow state worker, hundreds of dollars per month in temporary spousal support.

He’s not seeking alimony to help pay for their son’s after-school sports program or music lessons – there are none. Nor was he instrumental in building Ms. Bread Winner’s business as he sat on the couch, smoked pot and professed he was “sick” throughout their 15-year marriage. The daughter of an Air Force Master Sergeant, she started working for the state when she was 18 and has since risen and excelled as an IT Analyst. She’s also worked furiously to ensure the additional education and success of her home business while raising a family. Small wonder she is outraged at having to write a monthly alimony check.

“I thought spousal support was for people who were out of the work force, to raise a family for example. It might take them longer to support themselves.”, says Ms. Bread Winner. “Maybe it’s my upbringing, but it never occurred to me that I, as a woman, would have to pay spousal support. It was bad enough that I primarily supported him when we were married, but to continue when we are divorced?! I’m so mad that I created a pixel support website, www.WomenPayingSupport.com where people can vent and get a t-shirt with my logo on it!”

No doubt Ms. Bread Winner will find more than a few buyers for her t-shirts. The idea that men can receive spousal support from their ex-wives may feel like a freakish concept but as the alpha-earner woman by need, not desire as in the case of Ms. Bread Winner, have emerged, it’s increasingly common.

A lot of women are indignant now that the shoe is increasingly on the other foot, says Carol Ann Wilson, a certified financial divorce practitioner in Boulder, Colo. “There’s a sense of, “What’s yours is ours, but what’s mine is mine.” Wilson says, “My first response to that is, “All these years we have been carrying our families while looking for equality; well this is what it looks like upon divorce. I know women get angrier about having to pay than men do.”

The ordeal has been played up in gossip magazines and tabloids, which have closely followed countless examples of celebrity breakups in which men have sought, or have threatened to seek, spousal support. Teen idol Nick Lachey reportedly requested the right to seek spousal support from ex-wife pop singer Jessica Simpson last year. [Lachey is seven years older than Simpson and worth significantly less.] In another splashy case, Hardy Boy Parker Stevenson sought $18,000 per month from actress Kristie Ally when they divorced, just to cover the rent on his Bel Air home. As men set their sights on women’s earnings, women have become more protective of those dollars.

In fact, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 44% of all attorneys included in a recent survey said they’ve seen an increase in men wanting alimony and more and more women asking for prenuptial agreements over the last five years, where in previous decades, prenuptial agreements and alimony were almost always sought by men. Just as women object to men’s request for spousal support, some real men are particularly uncomfortable seeking it. Either they find it emasculating to ask, or they find the idea of receiving an allowance from their ex-wives humiliating. Right or not, as women’s earnings grow, so will their financial responsibility during divorce. That’s equality for you.

Contact: Press Room

www.GlennSacks.com, Glenn Sacks

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