Given gender stereotypes, most of the history of divorce involves the man paying some form of alimony, or spousal support, to care for the woman. However, as women have become more educated and advanced professionally, more couples find themselves not only evenly matched but in many instances with the woman earning more than the man (think of the movie Mr. Mom and you get the idea).
How prevalent is this trend? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at least 28% of women earn more than their male spouse and nearly 2 million stay-at-home dads. What once had been a stigma for men (a threat to their virility or masculinity) has become common enough that these men not only feel comfortable with role reversal, but also with asking for spousal support, or maintenance (or “manimony” in some circles) in the event of divorce.
It is a positive development that gender stereotypes have been removed from family law (or are at least in the process of being removed). Missouri actually takes a gender-neutral approach to maintenance. The statute governing maintenance does not refer to one specific gender for the spouse paying maintenance; rather, the statute allows either spouse to advance a claim for spousal support based upon a proper showing of need and inability to meet reasonable expenses through employment.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the national trend of “manimony” is that women now experience the same frustrations as men who pay spousal support, to the point where some groups are calling for reform. Women rightly feel offended that the family courts order them to continue paying for their former spouses when these same men willfully refuse to seek gainful employment and become as self-sufficient as possible.
We have recently posted here about legislative reform in Missouri with regard to maintenance, and the manimony phenomenon may help garner further support for clearing out the inequities of maintenance and its ability to be seen as arbitrary. We shall see whether and when that reform passes.
If the old adage what is good for the goose is good for the gander is true for spousal support, perhaps having the shoe on the other foot will bring more balance to the process and help all spouses realize that maintenance was never intended as a permanent income stream but only a “stop-gap” measure in the transition to two separate households and lives.
If you have questions about manimony and divorce, contact us – we can help.