The Helpless Housewife, Part 2: Are First Wives or Second Wives Winning the Spousal Support War?

Surprisingly, the people who are the most vehemently in support of modifying the laws regarding alimony are WOMEN. Specifically, these women are second wives.

Here’s the scenario that’s causing all the fuss: Woman meets man. Woman falls in love with man. Woman wants to marry man, only…man owes a third of his income to his first wife until one of them dies. That’s not cool.

And furthermore, what happens to second wife’s income if something happens to hubby, and his income is restricted? Should SHE be expected to foot the bill to support the first wife? And, if so, should she just not get married? That’s a pretty icky thought.

Still, it does seem that, in all fairness, the first wife came first. And studies have shown that the world is harder on women after divorce than it is on men. For example, recently divorced women are twice as likely as men to be in poverty. It also typically affects a woman’s health insurance. Not to mention, what happens if the first wife is older? If she was a stay-at-home mom during the marriage, for example, and was out of the job market for a number of years, she may find it difficult to obtain a well-paying position later in life.

Women are divided on this issue. Women who have stayed at home to raise their children, or otherwise cut back on their professional careers for the sake of their families, typically feel strongly that permanent spousal support should be an option, to help make up for the permanent disparities between the parties that will continue to exist long after the divorce. Professional career women, on the other hand, don’t understand why rehabilitative spousal support for a number of years isn’t enough to help get these women back on their feet and back into the workforce. It’s an ideological difference, based on fundamental belief systems. Each group of women believes strongly in her own position, and, as a result, we have this looming dispute over how much spousal support should be awarded, and for how long.

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

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