SAN DIEGO, May 27, 2014 – When a female celebrity making big money paid out spousal support, it made headlines: Jennifer Lopez, Jane Fonda, Janet Jackson, Jessica Simpson. Now the trend is trickling down.
Women are breaking professional and societal barriers at a tremendous rate today. Women professionals, entrepreneurs, military and organizational leaders are no longer considered unusual.
The trend has affected many aspects of the family. A 2013 study by the Pew Research Center found that mothers are the primary or sole breadwinner in 40 percent, of all U.S. households with children with one in four households headed by a single mother.
This shift has influenced the amount of time children spend with their fathers. More fathers are acting as the primary parent and caretaker in the family on a day-to-day basis. Dad is the one picking up kids from school, scheduling after school activities, and making sure homework is done. Dad knows what the kids like in their lunches, and who their best friends are.
This trend is one of several producing results that impact family law. When a family goes through a divorce, there is no longer any assumption that dad is the primary income earner, that mom will “automatically” get primary physical custody and receive child or spousal support.
Where mom is the primary breadwinner, there is a legal expectation that the wife would be responsible for child support and possibly spousal support.
Every state has its own guidelines for determining spousal support, and child support. Factors generally include the length of the marriage, one of the spouse’s need for financial support when the household is divided, and the other spouse’s ability to pay.
As for child support payments, this relies on the need for both parents to physically and financially share the responsibilities of raising children. If mom was the person for the greater share of financial support of the family household and the children during the marriage, it will likely remain the same after the parents divorce.
Just as gender stereotypes are breaking down in other areas of American life, they are breaking down in divorce outcomes. If the wife makes more money than her husband, she faces the real – and fair – possibility of paying spousal support. If a spouse of either gender gave up a career or worked less hours to be the primary parent, it doesn’t matter whether this was mom or dad, the stay-at-home spouse is likely to receive spousal support, and possibly child support if he or she continues to have primary or in some cases even shared custody.
As of 2011, one out of six fathers had primary or full custody of their children. This includes fathers who had a shared custody arrangement that included a minimum requirement of having primary custody for at least two whole months during the previous year. This is nine times greater than it was when first surveyed in 1960.
Thirty percent of these single fathers receive child support payments; as compared to fifty percent of mothers with primary or full custody who receive court ordered child support.
Money is among the most emotional subjects involving in a divorce. There remain many stereotypes about deadbeat dads not paying their court-ordered child support. What is fascinating is that the rate of “deadbeat moms” is statistically the same as the rate of “deadbeat dads.” About one-third of parents of either gender fail to pay their court-ordered child support. The rate of payments has dropped slightly overall for both genders since 2007, which is attributable to the downturn in the economy and in employment rates.
Custody and child support laws are gender neutral, as well they should be. But it is always far preferable for divorcing parents to work out financial arrangements between themselves, rather than involving the courts.
It is a smart decision to engage financial planners with specific expertise in divorce settlements. A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA™) can help divorcing couples gain a clear view of their financial future and their options. With this information, a couple can work with attorneys to create a settlement that fully addresses the financial needs of the family, and the capability to meet those needs in a fair manner. Your family law attorney is the best place to get a recommendation.
Myra Chack Fleischer serves as Lead Counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby in Carlsbad, California with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Read more Legally Speaking in Communities Digital News. Follow Myra on Twitter: @LawyerMyra. Fleischer can be reached via Google +
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