Extra males get help from their ex-wives

(Reuters) – If Hugh McSharry’s marriage had ended a generation ago, he might have felt uncomfortable accepting child support.

But when his divorce was finalized almost two years ago, in February 2012, McSharry had no qualms about going to court for spousal support. He also received no setbacks from family or friends, or even from his ex-wife.

“It wasn’t a big sticking point,” says McSharry, 50, of the maintenance negotiations. “She obviously knew that she was very successful and that she was the main breadwinner in our family.”

McSharry is a father of three and a partner in a small medical technology company. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, he is fine financially, but his ex-wife is an orthopedic surgeon and she is very, very well.

Divorce lawyers across the country are seeing an increase in men asking ex-wives for spousal support, also known as child support.

Current numbers are difficult, if not impossible. According to the 2010 census, of the 400,000 people who received spousal support, only 3 percent were men. Last year, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers surveyed its 1,600 members and found that 47 percent had seen an increase in the number of women paying child support.

However, as women become increasingly the main breadwinners and the number of staying-at-home fathers increases, that 3 percent number is likely to increase if it isn’t already.

“Ten years ago, when I was probably three years old, I first saw a woman paying spousal support. This year alone, I’ve had seven cases where the woman pays assistance, ”said Justin Reckers, CEO of Pacific Divorce Management, a San Diego-based divorce financial planning firm.

The change is due to social mores changing, says Penelope Hefner, a Charlotte, North Carolina attorney who also sees an increase in men asking for spouse support.

“More fathers stay at home and more women earn more than their husbands,” says Hefner. “This shift in economic equilibrium naturally leads to a shift in the proportion of husbands who seek support.”

Society is starting to overtake the law. In 1979, the Supreme Court made it clear with Orr vs. Orr that there should be no gender bias when it comes to child support payments. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that some men don’t always get the same results when it comes to receiving spousal support.

For one thing, the law may mandate that there should be no gender bias, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t, says McSharry. “I absolutely believe that the judge, who was a woman, had a mentality that made her feel like I wasn’t making a living because I’m a man,” says McSharry, who gets US $ 5,000 a month from his ex-wife -Dollars received.

And not only the judges are skeptical that men earn a living. Hefner says that “men are often more willing than women to drop their petitions in divorce negotiations.”


Convincing some reluctant proud male clients to negotiate alimony can take some work, but according to Steven Eisman, a marriage lawyer in New York, it’s usually just about showing them the math. “He tends to want it when he realizes he’ll be living in a basement apartment without it,” says Eisman.

It is safe to say that no one likes to pay child support and that some spouses, male or female, receive child support that they do not think they deserve. Reckers sees that many women prefer to give their ex-husbands a lump sum instead of maintenance payments “because they don’t want a former husband on their payroll for long periods of time”.

Sandy Arons, a certified financial divorce specialist in Brentwood, Tennessee, says it seems easier for divorcing men with children to go to child support, but she recently helped a man without children get spousal support.

“She didn’t want to pay anything,” says Arons. “But the purpose of the alimony in this case was to get him on his feet. He wasn’t unemployed, but if you live on a two-income household you can afford a job that is happy and pleasing to you and you don’t have to be in turbo mode in your career. ”

Now, says Arons, her client will have a cushion with the maintenance while he finds a better job.

When a man works less, for example not chasing a job that requires a lot of travel and time to run the household more efficiently, while his wife wants big bucks, “it is no different than a woman who risks her career , ” She says.

McSharry agrees. McSharry, who never wanted to get divorced, says his ex-wife is a great mom but she has a demanding career, and he purposely avoided a cluttered career so the kids wouldn’t have two parents who were always called away from theirs Jobs.

Alimony, regardless of gender, is justified, says McSharry. “Once you’ve brought value into the relationship, you should be able to take that value out of it,” he notes.

(The author is a Reuters employee. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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