Recently the Pew Research Center released a study that determined that in
40% of American households woman were the primary breadwinner (Associated
Press, 5/29/13.) Had the people at Pew asked an experienced family law
attorney, they would not have needed to conduct the study in the first place.
The study confirmed what those of us “in the know” already know;
working women are earning an increasingly larger share of their families’
income. The Pew study also confirmed something else that we knew: despite the
rise in relative income compared to men, attitudes have not changed nearly as
much as the increases in women’s income earning capacity. Yet, the impact of a
woman’s income earning power on divorce, child custody, and support issues is
often profound.

As far as attitudes are concerned, it seems to us that woman still
disproportionately expect to receive support, both spousal and child, more than
they should. That is true both in terms of the amount of support as well as its
duration. At the same time, women are astounded when they are asked to pay
support to their husbands and/or to the fathers of their children. With regard
to men, sometimes they refuse support when they should not. Reasons for this
vary, but such refusal is often borne of ego or social appearance. And when men
do demand support, many times it is used as a negotiating tactic more than an actual
financial expectation.

The reality is that generally speaking women want support too much and refuse
to pay it too often. Likewise, men refuse to accept support too much or cannot
stomach the thought of paying it to an ex-wife or mother they deem unworthy of
receiving it. As we have discussed elsewhere,
support payments of all kinds should be looked at as a means to create fair
results. Put another way, support payments are often just another tool in a
family law attorney’s “tool box.” Tax consequences and other
equitable factors could make support payments an important part of creating a
good settlement. There is not one “right” way to settle every case.

So what should you take away from this Pew study and the reality we describe?
As the Associated Press reported, despite the fact that “workplaces and
schools still follow a male-breadwinner model… the breadwinner-homemaker
marriage will never again be the norm….” In light of that reality
consumers of family law services need to be educated in order to get the
customized results that will best serve themselves and their children. Part of
that means curbing the desire to micromanage your case. Instead, your interests
are best served by finding a lawyer that you trust who understands how to
create good deals and get good results. And, it is important as an educated
consumer of family law services to recognize that sometimes the support you
demand could represent the most expensive dollars you ever get. Recognize,
also, that the flip side could also be true: the support dollars that you pay
could represent the cheapest dollars you will ever have to pay.