Posted on behalf of Jeffrey N. Greenblatt of Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, PA
Readers from Maryland may have seen a recent article about the crumbling of gender stereotypes held predominant in previous generations. Where men were generally viewed as the primary breadwinners and women as the head of the household, this dynamic has changed dramatically in recent years. Perhaps no more shocking example can be found than in family law courts, where women earners are finding out they may be on the hook for some unexpected property division and alimony surprises.
According to one source, nearly 40 percent of her female clients earn more money than their husbands, and with this increased income comes an increased burden on them to pay their share in a divorce. In dual-income or single-income homes where the woman is the primary earner, this could mean paying their ex-husbands substantial monthly alimony or giving up more of their financial contributions to the marriage during property division.
When a couple divorces in Maryland, the court seeks to award an equitable division of the marital property, generally most property accrued during the marriage, between each spouse. This may not mean an exactly equal share to each side, but it should mean that each side gets a reasonably similar split of the assets based on the individual’s circumstances. For example, a woman who works while the father stays at home with the children may choose to negotiate for a settlement that has a heavier emphasis on paying child support in lieu of alimony or being forced to divide non- liquid assets such as business or real estate holdings during property division.
Men have long-argued that they are forced to pay an inordinate share in alimony and property division, but now that the gender gap is rapidly closing, the court may be forced to re-evaluate its stance on these issues for the fairness of everyone involved. Maryland courts consider many factors when determining property division matters, including personal and marital property and it is important for divorcing couples to value their assets correctly for this reason.
Source: Time, “The De-Gendering of Divorce: Wives Pay Ex-Husbands Alimony Too,” Liza Mundy, May 16, 2013