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Trend toward "gender reversal" in marriage affects divorce

Naperville Spousal Support Lawyer

Traditional gender roles are changing in marriage and divorce. More women than ever are attending college and obtaining advanced degrees. In recent decades, women have outpaced men in earnings growth as well.

This has resulted in "gender reversal" where the wife often earns more than the husband. A Pew Research Center study that analyzed demographic and economic trends in marriage between 1970 with 2007 found that the share of households where the wife earned more increased from four percent to 22 percent. The shift means that husbands are taking over more household duties as their wives work longer hours.

How does this change affect divorce?

Traditionally in a divorce, the wife was in a weaker financial position and needed to negotiate carefully during the divorce to salvage a similar standard of living. In many marriages, the wife had put her career aside to stay at home to raise the children. After years, skills may have gone out of date and advancement opportunities were lost. Usually the husband paid child support and maintenance or spousal support.

As marriage is changing, many women have less resistance in paying support to their ex-spouse. But, many men are uncomfortable asking for and receiving support.

Wives who are high earners often have managed the family and helped raise the children, in addition to working in challenging careers. Additionally, husbands find that they have done much more than their fathers and peers in raising the children and managing the household. Their contributions often allow a spouse to navigate a career. Relocation for the wives career, for example, may limit career opportunities for the husband.

The changing roles mean that more women must pay child support and maintenance.

Maintenance or spousal support in Illinois

Generally, if the parties cannot reach an agreement on maintenance or spousal support, an Illinois court will consider the following:

  • Does one party need maintenance?
  • If so, does the other party have the ability to pay?

Often the court favors an equitable distribution of marital property so that each spouse is self-supporting. The issue of maintenance thus ties in closely with marital property division.

The court can order maintenance that is reviewable and may be continued or limit it to a certain number of years. An award may be limited when one spouse needs to return to college for refresher coursework before re-entering a profession. If certain conditions are present and/or provided in the divorce settlement, the maintenance award may be reviewed after a certain period.

Several considerations to keep in mind related to maintenance, the spouse paying maintenance is able to deduct the costs on his or her taxes. For a high earning spouse this will likely result in a lower tax bill. The spouse receiving the maintenance must claim it as income and pay taxes on the amount received. Also, in Illinois maintenance award often terminate upon cohabitating or marriage to another individual.

If you are contemplating divorce, contact an experienced family law attorney. Identifying potential issues early in the process may ease resolution. A lawyer can assist with settlement negotiations and ensure your rights are protected.

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