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In my understanding the reasons why one has to pay alimony to the other are something like during the marriage one had a job and the other one stayed at home to care for children and housekeeping and such, so after the divorce the latter ends up without an income which is not fair.

This probably explains why (and IMO justifies that) it's much more often the man who is sentenced to pay the woman than the other way around.

But if this is actually the reason, then the ratio of divorced men paying the ex wife versus divorced women paying the ex husband should more or less reflect the ratio of employed men to employed women. E.g., if every 100 persons having a job 70 are men and 30 are women, I would expect that every 100 divorces where one is sentenced to pay alimony to the other there were approximately 30 where the woman has to pay the man, while I really think the actual number is enormously smaller in reality (and if someone can cite some reliable numbers about this ratio it would be great).

So what are the legal criteria to decide who pays alimony to whom?

ADDED: Let's focus on USA but answers / comments related to other jurisdictions would still be of interest.

ADDED: I found this Forbes article that appears to mention official, reliable numbers.

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    1. You think the number is enormously smaller in reality, but do you have a source? 2. which jurisdiction applies to your question? Alimony regulations in divorce laws are very different around the world. – Philipp Sep 8 '15 at 21:02
  • Also, mind the gender pay gap. When both partners in a marriage have jobs, the one who makes more might have to pay alimony to the one who makes less. And statistics say, the one who makes more is likely to be male. – Philipp Sep 8 '15 at 21:09
  • @Philipp 1. No, my only source is daily observation of the reality around me. I personally know - and I often read about - many men who must pay the woman (often half salary) but zero women who pay the man, so I guessed such women are in an enormously smaller number, but I might be wrong, that's why I asked if someone has reliable sources. When you emphasize that I think the number is enormously small do you mean that you think the number is not significantly smaller ? 2. Good point, let's focus on USA but answers / comments related to other jurisdictions would still be of interest. – SantiBailors Sep 9 '15 at 7:42
  • @Philipp Actually I tried to take into account the gender pay gap but as I currently see it that's completely inadequate to explain the much sharper difference in the ratio of divorced men who pay the woman versus the opposite. – SantiBailors Sep 9 '15 at 7:44
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the ratio of divorced men paying the ex wife versus divorced women paying the ex husband should more or less reflect the ratio of employed men vs. employed women

Not necessarily. Some states (NC for example) look at more than just the work scenario that you propose. From § 50-16.3A:

(1) The marital misconduct of either of the spouses. Nothing herein shall prevent a court from considering incidents of post date-of-separation marital misconduct as corroborating evidence supporting other evidence that marital misconduct occurred during the marriage and prior to date of separation;

(2) The relative earnings and earning capacities of the spouses;

(3) The ages and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the spouses;

(4) The amount and sources of earned and unearned income of both spouses, including, but not limited to, earnings, dividends, and benefits such as medical, retirement, insurance, social security, or others;

(5) The duration of the marriage;

(6) The contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse;

(7) The extent to which the earning power, expenses, or financial obligations of a spouse will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child;

(8) The standard of living of the spouses established during the marriage;

(9) The relative education of the spouses and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse seeking alimony to find employment to meet his or her reasonable economic needs;

(10) The relative assets and liabilities of the spouses and the relative debt service requirements of the spouses, including legal obligations of support;

(11) The property brought to the marriage by either spouse;

(12) The contribution of a spouse as homemaker;

(13) The relative needs of the spouses;

(14) The federal, State, and local tax ramifications of the alimony award;

(15) Any other factor relating to the economic circumstances of the parties that the court finds to be just and proper.

(16) The fact that income received by either party was previously considered by the court in determining the value of a marital or divisible asset in an equitable distribution of the parties' marital or divisible property.

Take a look at § 50-16.1A also, where they define Marital Misconduct. Some may be of the opinion that alimony in NC is partly about punishment.

(3) "Marital misconduct" means any of the following acts that occur during the marriage and prior to or on the date of separation:

a. Illicit sexual behavior. For the purpose of this section, illicit sexual behavior means acts of sexual or deviate sexual intercourse, deviate sexual acts, or sexual acts defined in G.S. 14-27.1(4), voluntarily engaged in by a spouse with someone other than the other spouse;

b. Involuntary separation of the spouses in consequence of a criminal act committed prior to the proceeding in which alimony is sought;

c. Abandonment of the other spouse;

d. Malicious turning out-of-doors of the other spouse;

e. Cruel or barbarous treatment endangering the life of the other spouse;

f. Indignities rendering the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome;

g. Reckless spending of the income of either party, or the destruction, waste, diversion, or concealment of assets;

h. Excessive use of alcohol or drugs so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome;

i. Willful failure to provide necessary subsistence according to one's means and condition so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome.

  • Does that last one mean one spouse purposely becomes a burden on the other? – Andy Sep 8 '15 at 22:21
  • Thanks; when I supposed that the alimony decision depended on the income I was making an approximation and now I realize its extent, at least as far as some states are concerned. You gave me some reading to do that will take some time (I appreciate it ) but in the meantime do you mean that the requirements you listed get violated that more often by men than by women so they might contribute to explain the size of the gender difference in who pays alimony to the other spouse ? – SantiBailors Sep 9 '15 at 8:03
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+50

The reason that more woman get alimony than the men is a sociological, more than a legal phenomenon. Despite the fact that it's 2015, there is still a gap between men and women when it comes to earnings. Further, in families where it is financially possible, many more women are homemakers than men (raising the children, keeping the home, etc).

When alimony is available, the court will look at these issues and make the party that would suffer a downward departure is standard of living whole; meaning that the person who makes more will be required to pay. Obviously, that is not the only analysis. The answer above lays out "at fault" criteria, which is somewhat retributive. This is especially so when marital assets are abused. However, the reasons I stated make up the bulk of why men tend to be the payor rather than payee as many more states are no "no fault" states. Financial or physical abuse can still be taken into account, but it is only one factor. In this day and age, alimony is typically rehabilitate only, until you are talking about 20 plus year marriages. There is typically a tier system in those cases.

  • 1) In my understanding the gender-gap explanation requires that the difference between how much money men and women make is more or less proportional to the difference between how many men pay alimony to the woman and how many women pay alimony to the man, and I'm interested in understanding if this logic is right as I'm no expert. Does your answer imply this logic is wrong? 2) Re @jqning's answer you mentioned,do you think that those requirements get violated that more often by men than by women so they might contribute to explain the size of the gender difference in who pays alimony to whom? – SantiBailors Dec 18 '15 at 15:44
  • No. What I'm saying is that financial disparity is often one of the biggest indicator of how an alimony award is justified. Not all statutes to read the same as the one above. However, those are some pretty common indicators of when an awarded may be granted even if there's no desparity. When none of those situations exist, (where one person is clearly at fault for so malicious or willful action) in no fault states alimony is automatically awarded after a certain terms marriage. This is where the disparity comes into play – gracey209 Dec 18 '15 at 15:53
  • Some states do not award alimony unless there is some form of wrongful conduct and those are often times only seen in fault divorces, where one spouse can prove something like abandonment, financial abuse, addiction, physical abuse, adultery, child abuse, etc. most states, now, are no fault, and if alimony is available it's often only rehabilitative. I wrote my doctoral thesis on this question or something very similar. If I can find it on some dumb drives I will attach. – gracey209 Dec 18 '15 at 15:55
  • What I'm saying is that financial disparity is often one of the biggest indicator of how an alimony award is justified. I totally agree, that's why what I'm trying to understand with my original question is: is the financial disparity between men's and women's earnings approximately proportional to the disparity between how many men pay alimony to the woman and how many women pay alimony to the man ? Or is it logically wrong to expect it to be approximately proportional ? – SantiBailors Dec 18 '15 at 16:00
  • Those fault provisions do get violated by men more than women (especially abandonment and abuse) and that does account for some of the divergence. Also, you have to look at the fact that women are more often "working" in the family rather than in the workplace. Hence, the judge will award x amount of dollars toward that spouses "income" column, owed by the working spouse, to the spouse doing all of the work at home. – gracey209 Dec 18 '15 at 16:02

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