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For decades, when couples divorced, it was the man who paid support to his ex-wife mainly because men earned higher incomes. Typically, women were stay-at-home moms or in lower-paying jobs, and she would receive alimony when the marriage ended. Today, in California and many other states, women are now holding more powerful, higher-paying positions with many being the family breadwinner.

A recent survey showed an increase in the number of women paying alimony, spousal support or maintenance to their ex-spouses. Many are surprised to learn they may be required to pay support; some are resentful and even mad about it. Today, with women being the primary financial support in four out of 10 families, the trend is on the rise as they continue to earn more money.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1979 that alimony should be gender-neutral, and courts have moved away from a lifetime of support payments. The concept has evolved and is more about acquiring skills and training and getting back into the workforce instead of receiving support for a long period. In California, some believe able-bodied people would become financially responsible for themselves if alimony were abolished.

Experts suggest working couples be open with each other before marrying and consider a prenuptial agreement. A 2016 survey showed a rise in prenups among smart and savvy couples who, through education, understand that the contract is an effective means of protecting themselves and their assets in the event of divorce. As such an agreement can also cover aspects associated with alimony and spousal support, the advice of a family law attorney about alimony can be invaluable before tying the knot.

Source:, “More women are now paying alimony and child support”, Meera Jagannathan, May 17, 2018