If you are one of the many Pennsylvania women who have flocked to theaters to see RBG, the new documentary movie about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you know how much things have changed for American women since the 1950s when “a woman’s place is in the home.” Husbands supported the family and virtually all wives stayed home to have babies and manage the household. Ms. Ginsburg was one of the very few exceptions.
Divorce was a relatively rare occurrence back then given the facts that it was often forbidden, especially for Catholics, and few women had any job skills whatsoever, making it impossible for them to support themselves and their children after a divorce. The main solution to this latter problem was alimony, the monthly post-divorce payments that judges required more well-to-do ex-husbands to pay to their ex-wives.
Then came the Women’s Movement of the 1970s. Your mother or grandmother may have told you “women’s lib” stories about that era. Women began demanding equality with men, particularly the right to work outside the home and to receive equal pay for equal work. Thousands, if not millions, of women marched in the streets demanding passage of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. While this amendment ultimately went down in flames, women nevertheless entered the workforce in droves.
Alimony becomes spousal support
Over the decades, many women successfully climbed the corporate or professional ladder, and as they climbed, so did their earning capacity. You may be one of today’s women who earns just as much as your husband, if not more than he does. He may even be a stay-at-home dad. As far back as 2012, over 2 million American dads fit this description. In 2013, women were the main, often only, family breadwinner in 40 percent of American households.
Not surprisingly, divorce laws also changed over the past 50 years. You seldom hear the word “alimony” any more. Instead, these monthly post-divorce payments to ex-spouses go by the name of spousal support since both men and women now receive them. While spousal support payments from women to men represent only about 20 percent of today’s divorces, when they occur, they have a new nickname: manimony.
If you are married and contemplating divorce, be aware that you could wind up paying manimony to your ex-husband if you currently earn more than he does. Judges take the following factors into consideration when awarding manimony:
- The amount of disparity between what you earn and what your husband earns
- The amount of disparity between your earning potential and that of your husband
- Whether or not he could earn more if he receives further education or job training
- How long the two of you have been married
Limited time period
The good news is that manimony does not last forever. Generally, you can stop paying if your ex-husband remarries and/or when he completes whatever education or training the judge determined he required. Other judges award manimony for a specified number of years only, usually fewer than 10.
Obviously, the equality your mother, grandmother and women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg worked for often comes with a price. Manimony is one of those prices.