Number of women paying alimony has increased over time

At one time, the parties in a typical high-asset divorce in Massachusetts used to be a high-earning husband and his wife, who was often awarded alimony. Alimony provided needed support to the wife, who usually had little or no outside income. That situation may not be the norm much longer. According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 47 percent of divorce attorneys are now seeing an increase in the number of women paying alimony to a former spouse.

Alton Abramowitz, the academy’s president-elect, believes that this change evinces progress towards financial equality. He noted that women have earned more over the course of recent years, and in some cases female spouses have displaced their male counterparts as the principal income earner in the household.

The number of women obtaining advanced degrees has increased markedly in the past few decades, a further sign of progressive equality in the job market. According to figures from the Digest of Educational Statistics, twice as many women now get a law degree as they did in 1980. In addition, medical degrees are now granted in equal numbers to men and women, a significant change from 1980, when women earned only a third of the total number.

Under Massachusetts alimony law, disparity in earning power is one factor that courts use when awarding alimony. Other factors include, but are not limited to, the length of the marriage, the age of the parties, the income and employability of the parties, the needs of each spouse, and how each party behaved during the marriage.

Source: Reuters, “Divorce courts mirror society as more women pay alimony,” Patricia Reaney, May 10, 2012.

Source: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “General Laws,” Part II, Title III, Ch. 208, Sec. 34.


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