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When it comes to divorce, wives who earn more may pay a price

Now that an increasing number of working wives outearn their husbands, family practice lawyers in Broward County and elsewhere throughout the nation are seeing a new phenomenon: courts are ordering these women to pay alimony to their soon-to-be ex-husbands, and the women are none too pleased with this turn of events.

At its inception, alimony was looked upon as a kind of consolation prize. For many years, even in households with dual providers, a husband earned more than his wife. Wives were generally assigned the primary role of running the household. Alimony was compensation for the fact that the wife had sacrificed her economic earning potential on her family's behalf.

Today, however, almost 40 percent of working wives take home a paycheck that's bigger than their husband's. The traditional models of marriage, and the expected division of labor within them, have become obsolete. Even the number of fathers who act as their children's primary care provider has doubled in the last decade. However, many men feel far more vulnerable than they're comfortable feeling when they depend on their wives for financial support, according to experts.

In a legal sense, however, spousal support implies nothing about the division of labor that existed within the married household, or either spouse's ability to find employment after the divorce. Spousal support exists to ensure that both spouses are able to maintain a lifestyle after divorce that's roughly similar to the lifestyle they shared while married. In states such as Florida, which recognize the concept of no fault divorce, the court does not seek to assign blame for the breakdown of the marital bond. The court does, however, strive to ensure fairness.

Source: TIME.com, "The De-Gendering of Divorce: Wives Pay Ex-Husbands Alimony Too", Liza Mundy, May 16, 2013