In 2009, Stephen Jenkins, chair of the Council of the International Center for Research on Income and Wealth, confirmed what many suspected - that divorce makes women poorer and men wealthier. The study showed that the divorced men surveyed showed an increase a one-third increase in income, while women showed a one-fifth decrease in income. The trends on both sides lasted for several years and were compounded if the marriage had produced children.
ALIMONY REFORM CONTROVERSY
One area of discussion among lawmakers around the country is alimony reform. In most states, alimony and spousal support laws are based on what can be viewed as an old-fashioned marital structure, one in which a woman gives up her career to keep house and raise children and the man is the family's provider. In the case of divorce, the man is then obligated to continue to support his ex-wife financially, since she is unable to provide for herself. While this scenario is less common than it once was, Jenkins' report shows that women still suffer financially after divorce. Former New York Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman once referred to alimony as "back pay." Advocates of alimony reform are calling for an end to lifelong spousal support and other changes that would reduce the required amount and length of alimony payments.
HOW WOMEN CAN AVOID BECOMING IMPOVERISHED
Women file for divorce more often than men. This implies that more women have more time to anticipate a split and the financial changes that come with it. Women headed for divorce can move to protect themselves financially by taking care of a few matters in a timely fashion:
- Review your documents - Check your insurance policies and estate plan and change beneficiaries.
- Open a separate bank account - Direct your salary or other income to your own account.
- Start a line of credit - Obtain a credit card in your own name only.
- Cultivate a source of income - Even if you have never worked outside the home, this is a good time to start.
- Get job retraining or a degree - Prepare to reenter the job market or to move into a higher-paying field.
The more steps women take to protect themselves financially as they move toward separation and divorce, the less financial effect the divorce is likely to have.
If you are considering divorce, speak with a divorce attorney who can manage your case with patience, savvy and skill. We serve the San Diego area.