The Helpless Housewife, Part 3: What Happens to Our Families if we Eliminate Permanent Spousal Support?

Posted on May 29, 2013 by Katie Carter

This isn’t just about the differences between the career woman and the stay at home mom. There are bigger social issues that affect the choices that we, as women, can make with regard to our families and our careers. Finding a balance has always been difficult, regardless of the specific path you choose to take, but having a specific decision forced on you because of the direction the law has taken is distasteful at best.

What do I mean? Well, if you knew on the day you got married that there was a chance your marriage could fail and, once it failed, even if that day was twenty or thirty years down the road, you’d have to get back on your feet financially without being able to depend on him for permanent financial support, would you choose to do things differently than if that were not the case?

The case for permanent spousal support

The problem is largely generational. The era where women had to be taken care of is over, but there are still many of us who would, if given the choice, like the opportunity to stay at home and raise our children ourselves, rather than sending them to grow up in daycare. Does that mean that, if the possibility of permanent spousal support is erased, we won’t be able to make those decisions for our families? Does that mean that women will always have to coldly calculate what they should be doing professionally so that they can support themselves later, just in case things don’t work out the way we hoped? In losing the possibility of permanent spousal support, we lose autonomy. We lose the right to choose for ourselves what’s best for us—and our families.

The case against permanent spousal support

On the other hand, if permanent spousal support is a possibility, where is the push for the first wife to ever try to support herself? If she knows she can permanently rely on the spousal support, why would she feel driven to seek separate employment? It doesn’t seem fair to expect a man to pay for years, sometimes longer than the actual marriage, for a woman who is otherwise capable of employment. Spousal support would also end if the woman remarried, so what happens to the women receiving spousal support who later develop a stable, romantic relationship with a man, but refuse to marry because it would disrupt their spousal support payments? So they are receiving support, presumably reaping some benefit of their newer relationship, and effectively thwarting the system by refusing to remarry. If ex-hubby remarries, though, his new wife could be responsible for paying support to the first wife.

Not to mention, alimony payments to an ex-spouse tie a person to a bad relationship. It’s a frequent and constant obligation that doesn’t allow old wounds to heal.

This post is based on an article from Time, “The End of Alimony,” by Belinda Luscombe.