I am a Woman: Do I Have to Pay Alimony or Child Support?

One morning not long ago, when I was dropping my son off late at pre-school, all of his classmates were already in circle time talking about the day’s weather. As my son joined the circle, I overheard his teacher gently reminding the class that their “mommies” must return permission slips for the library field trip. My heart dropped a bit as I thought of my son’s best friend, sitting there in the circle. Unlike the majority of the children in class, this boy’s father is the parent who has taken on the responsibility of signing permission slips, packing lunches and, yes, doing laundry and making dinner. His wife happens to be a very successful businesswoman – climbing the corporate ladder early on and proving to be a formidable force in her line of work. Because his career was not as lucrative, they made the decision early on that he would be the parent to stay home and care for their two young children. This scenario is becoming increasingly common, leading many women to ask, do I have to pay alimony or child support?

For years women have attempted to achieve equal status to men in the work place, as well as in the home, shattering traditional gender stereotypes and achieving greater equality. Like my son’s friend’s dad, more fathers are finding themselves assuming what were once stereotypical female familial roles. Although these traditional roles are changing, overall divorce rates have remained fairly consistent over the last decade, purportedly ranging between 46 and 53 percent. This has proven to have unexpected consequences for the higher-earning female spouse.

Indeed, more women are finding themselves responsible for monetary support during and after divorce.

According to a recent survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 56% of the nation’s top divorce attorneys say that they have seen an increase in the number of mothers paying child support during the past three years.   Forty-seven percent of those attorneys also note a rise in women being responsible for alimony throughout the same time period. Ken Alshuler, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers believes that “the court system is generally a reflection of societal changes and that this is no exception.” He explained “as more women achieve success in their career paths, they are also finding themselves increasingly responsible for financial obligations during and after the divorce process.”

As has long been the case with divorcing men, many women who now find themselves responsible for spousal support, alimony and/or child support payments are frustrated at the prospect of making these payments to an ex-spouse. It is important that women contemplating divorce understand Pennsylvania spousal support, alimony and child support laws and how they may financially impact them upon divorce.

Pennsylvania spousal support, alimony and child support laws simply do not discriminate between women and men.

Instead, our courts are obligated to analyze various factors when determining who will pay support. Generally, the greater income-producing spouse will end up making the spousal support, alimony and/or child support payments having nothing to do with whether the spouse is a man or a woman.