Alimony stems from the Latin word for nourishment or sustenance. The fundamental purpose of alimony (called spousal support in California) is to maintain the financial status quo.
Societal norms have changed. Many women today are better educated than their spouses, and they go into the marriage knowing that they are the higher wage earner. For these women in their 30s and 40s, in the event of a divorce, financial security is not an issue.
According to the Pew Research Center, there are over 5 million breadwinner moms. “A record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family.”
Perhaps their husbands offered to take an alternative career path in order to stay home and assist with raising the children. Historically, women have had problems reentering the workforce after an employment hiatus, and now this pattern applies to men, too.
Unfortunately, some women now have husbands who have been chronically unemployed or underemployed. Some wives have worked extremely hard to support an entire family, well after children have entered school, even into middle age, only to have their husbands leave the marriage with someone else.
Even if he lived his life like another child at home, he may be capable of doing things for himself, once he leaves. I often hear, “He’s never initiated anything during the entire marriage; he’s not organized enough to file for divorce; he’d never be able to get that together himself.”
These are often the women whose husbands have filed first, beating them to the punch. If the woman is not prepared, she may end up scrambling to defend herself as the respondent in a petition for divorce requesting spousal support.
If a woman believes that a divorce may be possible, even if she doesn’t want one, the best action she can take is to get busy preparing for the worst-case scenario while she hopes for the best. She should not underestimate the financial ramifications that might occur by adopting a “let’s wait and see what he does” position.
“Breadwinning women” ought to be prepared; here are 5 ways to be organized:
- Speak to a CDFA™ (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst).
- Get financial records & other documents together (to get a clear picture of financial standing).
- Open credit cards in your individual name; start to close joint cards.
- Monitor credit scores.
- Consider filing for a divorce, after a certain period of time, to seek the protections available under the law.
Some women continue to be hopeful and think that “the worst” won’t happen to them and do nothing. Other women put themselves in a better position by taking a proactive approach, like consulting a CDFA™ and speaking to an attorney to protect their assets and future earnings.
Do you know someone who waited to file for divorce and is now in the midst of a financial crisis? If you were faced with the possibility of a divorce, where would you begin to ensure your financial security and stability?