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RECOMMENDED ARTICLE: Cynthia Starnes, One More Time: Alimony, Intuition, and the Remarriage-Termination Rule, 81 Ind. L.J. 971 (2006), available online at

RECOMMENDED ARTICLE: Pamela Laufer-Ukeles, Selective Recognition of Gender Difference in the Law: Revaluing the Caretaker Role 31 Harvard J. Law and Gender 1 (2008)

COMPARE, CONSIDER: Tali Schaefer, Disposable Mothers: Paid In-Home Caretaking and the Regulation of Parenthood 19 Yale J. Law and Feminism 305 (2008)

AND NEW RESEARCH: "Divorce makes men - and particularly fathers - significantly richer. When a father separates from the mother of his children, according to new research, his available income increases by around one third. Women, in contrast, suffer severe financial penalties."

Motherhood ManifestoA myth within a myth is that the disintegration, if not the disappearance, of alimony is due to the feminist movement. Or that feminists oppose alimony."

"...alimony is back pay, reparations, payment for past services, and should not terminate on the wife's remarriage any more than a retired employee who receives a private pension for past consideration and for time and work and money already invested should lose the pension if the worker obtains a new job..."

-- Emily Jane Goodman

"People think that alimony is one of the great advantages that women have. Well, if it's so great, then why don't we have it?... I don't think...women should give it up until they have equal wages and equal work."
-- Claudia Dreifus

Why Women Still Can't Have It All, by Anne-Marie Slaughter "Many feminists are too generous. We rush to give up the meager protections we have before we've gained anything approaching equality that might make such protections unnecessary.

"A woman who has taken herself off the job market, put her husband through college or graduate school, serviced and served him, raised his children, and failed to develop her own marketable skills, is most certainly entitled to alimony, lots of it -- every penny she can get.

"I am deeply puzzled and alarmed to hear some young feminists denounce alimony. It seems they have no knowledge or understanding of the plight of many older women, nor do they seem to recognize that even the woman who has good job skills earns less than a man with the same training, seniority, and competence.

"A feminist wouldn't think of giving up alimony until women have truly achieved equal pay for equal work, as well as a genuine co-division of child care and household responsibility in the family."

-- Barbara Seaman

"... in the earliest stages of this feminist wave (the antithetical or "So there!" phase), various feminists publicly deplored alimony "as prostitution wages." This is, of course, ridiculous -- as well as being a self-destructive attitude born of false pride (and false consciousness.) At this time in patriarchal history, alimony is, rather retroactive pay for years of free labor."
-- Robin Morgan

"In addition to the gender bias task force reports, many studies of the economic consequences of divorce document courts' gender bias as a factor in the post-divorce economic disparity between men and women due to inequitable awards of marital property and alimony."
-- Lynn Hecht Schafran

"It is with spousal support (alimony) and child support that women and children have been most damaged by the deadly combination of no-fault divorce and egalitarian attitudes.

"Although the divorce laws in individual states do not insist upon it, judges have taken the position that women with children can support themselves as well as men can support themselves.

"It is as if every time the media announces that a woman has been appointed to a judgeship or a high corporate position, thousands of women lose spousal support... The severe cutback in alimony has not been offset by an increase in child support. In fact, child-support awards have dropped drastically... In l978 and l981, child support awards nationally dropped 16 percent, with inflation taken into account. They took another 12.4 percent dive between l983 and l985, for a total decrease of 28.4 percent.

"When child support is collected (less than 50 percent of the time), it pays for far less than half of the cost of raising the child."

          -- Mary Ann Mason

"Many women have begun to feel guilty about asking for alimony and traditionally, contrary to popular perception, very few women have received alimony.

"According to a l986 Census Bureau survey, fewer than 15% of all women who had ever been divorced or were currently separated had obtained an agreement or court order to receive alimony... marriage still places women at a tremendous financial disadvantage... alimony is often necessary to compensate women for those financial disabilities caused or aggravated by marriage."

                -- ACLU, through Susan Deller Ross, Isabelle Katz Pinzler, Deborah A. Ellis, and Kary L. Moss

"Women will make financial sacrifices when faced with what they perceive to be a husband's serious custody or joint custody claim. They will buckle under from the spectre of interference from mediators or arbitrators on how to raise children...

"Let her settle for less money... some courts don't recognize that the mother is the primary caretaker when she has a career outside the home; a nanny notwithstanding, Mother does a second shift at home."

            -- Harriet Newman Cohen

"Where marriage is concerned, women are valued for their youth and beauty, while men are valued for financial power (whether we like it or not). Over time, a woman's value declines, while a man's value and earning potential rises. Childbearing significantly changes a woman's marriage market value -- a woman with children is seen as a "burden" to be avoided by other potential mates.

"If, additionally, a woman has left her career to care for her family, she is at a distinct disadvantage financially... she will NEVER catch up to where she would be if she had never married and had children... [Women's contributions to marriage and family creation are "front-loaded."] Alimony seeks to compensate her for the sacrifices she made... sacrifices which will affect her for a LIFETIME!!!

    -- Sharon

"You cannot do it all."
          -- Gloria Steinem

"The most important job, even economists agree, is raising the next generation. This is still predominantly women's work..

"Married mothers also soon discover that marriage is not an equal financial partnership. The typical American mother is economically dependent on her spouse, and has no claim on his income in the event of divorce. She and the children face a serious risk of poverty if the marriage ends -- a risk that most fathers don't face.

"Social policy does little to insure these risks or reward mothers for their economic contribution. Nannies earn Social Security credits; mothers do not. They earn a zero for every year they spend caring for family members. This means that motherhood is the single biggest risk factor for poverty in old age."

            -- Ann Crittenden, author of The Price of Motherhood


The bottom line is this: women still bear and care for the children of this world. This hasn't changed, and it's not going to.

Motherhood is more than a familial status -- it is an additional job. However, no one can be in two different places at once, doing two jobs at once, both caring for children, and engaged in earning income. Unless a mother is fortunate enough to have accumulated wealth prior to having children that is sufficient to support her family, or a very unusual way of earning income, a contribution -- help of one kind or another -- has to come from somewhere, either for child care or support.

This part sounds simple enough, and it's been popular for decades now to tout policies encouraging mothers to earn income while letting someone else do some or all of the child care, but there is a kicker. Pregnancy is not a shiftable burden or cost, and even post-pregnancy, the mother's parenting and caretaking relationship with the child isn't completely fungible. The full measure and cumulative effect over a lifetime of even small continuous economic and personal sacrifices that mothers MUST make, and WILL make, and the consequent lost opportunity costs add up.

The full measure of these costs are often felt years later, long after the children are reared and gone, and over a woman's lifetime, these costs will far exceed the concurrent value of a temporary lost wage or the mother's support needs while she is wholly or partly out of the paid work force (or merely giving less than 100% to her career) while actively bearing and caring for children.

Reproduction is not equal. It is not gender-neutral and never will be.

In the supposed lifetime marital "partnership" whose venture is the raising of a family, the partner who is the mother irrevocably commits a greater portion of personal resources and opportunity costs up-front. If the marriage lasts into the parties' retirement and until "death do us part," the input of both parties ultimately will equalize and ultimately be fair.

But the "partnership accounts" are not equal at the time of a premature divorce. A mother's investment in the marital joint venture is not only front-loaded, but in large part also irreversible, often with inevitable repercussions that will continue to reverberate for the remainder of her life.

Alimony is appropriate to insure that this front-loading of mothers' investments in connection with bearing children does not work an injustice of inequality upon divorce. Receiving alimony under such circumstances is no more indicative of "dependency" or unequal status than would be a business partner's getting properly reimbursed for a higher capital contribution made to a liquidating business partnership.

In fact, to profess otherwise is to denigrate the value of women's efforts, experience, contributions -- and their very bodies.

Recently [Ed. note: January 2009]. a divorcing man sued his wife for $1.5 million, angry because she filed for divorce some years after he donated a kidney to her to save her life. Both claim the other had an affair. (She's been severely ill, including three kidney transplants and double mastectomies, while he, a physician, has been perhaps healthy and neglected and surrounded by nurses in his hospital milieu, but be this as it may, the media seems to be according him more credibility.) He's outraged at the past irreversible damage to his body now that the marriage has broken. Well, how different is this from the not insignificant percentage of mothers who also have irreversible damage to their bodies from pregnancy -- and yet it's routinely dismissed as of no importance. It's only a matter of degree. (And that's just her body, not her economic losses and the reproductive and life opportunity costs.) See THE EFFECTS OF PREGNANCY.

"Equality" under the law means that WHEN men and women are the same in all ways, the law will treat them that way, and that when they are not, the law will not default to what is characteristic of "man" as the standard.

Thus, "equality under the law" means more than merely consideration of each person as an individual. It also means that that "consideration" will not be cast in terms of standards and rights that can attain only to non-gestating human beings. The law will not determine what is "reasonable" with reference solely to what would be "reasonable for a man;" the law will not determine what is "just" by reference solely to what could be "achievable by someone who cannot gestate;" and the law will not ignore reproductive differences between mothers and fathers where they do indeed exist and have effect."

-- liz


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