Photo: Flickr via seeminglee
More and more family law attorneys have reported a major shift in the way divorce courts allocate alimony and child support responsibilities, according to a new survey by the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers. Just under half the organisation’s 1,600 members said women have been increasingly saddled with alimony payments, while 56 per cent saw an uptick in child support rulings against women as well.
We got in touch with Joe Cordell, a partner in the nation’s largest domestic litigation firm, Cordell & Cordell, for his take on the survey. He did us one better, asking the firm’s own roster of 145 family attorneys to weigh in as well.
Turns out the trend isn’t a fluke.
“We got comments from almost every state we’re in (25 in all) and the bottom line is yes, this is much more common,” Cordell said. “This is a glacial but positive movement on the part of judges to be more gender blind in divorce court.”
Apart from any bias in judgment, there are a variety of factors at play here, chief among them womens’ growth in the job market – especially since the recession pummelled jobs commonly staffed by men. As a result, women are earning more and spending less time at home, which has given men an increasing opportunity to pitch in with childcare.
Also, it’s becoming increasingly harder for women to argue against their own earning power. If a woman were to claim she couldn’t reenter the workforce because she’d stayed home for 5-plus years to care for children, judges aren’t as likely to be sympathetic today, he added.
In particular, Cordell said he’s noticed men who are disabled are far more likely to be awarded spousal support in court than they were just a couple decades ago.
Still, there’s progress to be made: “One thing I heard back from lawyers was while we consider it cause for celebration ….Judges are still tight-fisted when they’re pulling money out of the wife’s hands for the husband’s support. There’s still not symmetry there.”