A New Rising Trend in Alimony?

May 21, 2012

In San Diego, many courts award spousal support in various family law hearings. A new survey has sparked a family law debate, who pays alimony more often - men or women? The new survey indicates that more women are paying alimony than ever before. However many practicing attorneys argue that, although women pay support in a few cases, men still are responsible for the majority of support payments.

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Alimony, more commonly known as spousal support in family law, is set by a judge or agreed upon by the parties in many family law cases. The amount of the award and the length of the obligation is dependent on a number of factors including: the needs and abilities of the parties, the length of the marriage, the standard of living enjoyed by the parties during the marriage, and any other factor the court deems relevant. In the past, many states had laws providing that only men could be ordered to pay spousal support to their wives.

In 1979, the United States Supreme Court decided a case entitled Orr v. Orr and created new Constitutional standards for spousal support laws. It is rare that the Supreme Court hears a case involving questions of family law because these issues are generally left to the states to decide. However, the Court determined that laws that prohibited courts from ordering women to pay spousal support were in violation of the United States Constitution. In Orr v. Orr, an Alabama statute permitted alimony to be awarded to wives but not to husbands. The stated rationale for this law was that the state was address the economic disparity between men and women and protecting women in financial need following a divorce. The Supreme Court analyzed the law under an intermediate scrutiny standard because it discriminated based on gender. The state had the burden to prove that the law was substantially related to an important government interest. The state did not meet that burden and the law was overturned.

Spousal support and child support typically go hand-in-hand. With the men's rights groups on the rise, many fathers are finding new and more effective ways to seek custody of their children. Previously, the Tender Years Presumption was applied throughout the United States, including California. Under the Tender Years Presumption, mothers were presumptively given custody of children still in their "tender" years. Several courts have held that this presumption is unconstitutional for the same reasons the Supreme Court overturned the Alabama law in Orr v. Orr. Thus, the Tender Years Presumption was replaced almost uniformly with some variation of the "best interest standard" in child custody cases. Under the current standards, San Diego family courts often make both child support and spousal support awards in favor of men. However, many attorneys still debate whether these awards amount to a significant enough number to equalize the spousal and child supports awarded in favor of women.

Please contact us if you have questions regarding custody and visitation and/or divorce. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.