The Recognition of Women’s Labor through Alimony

July 9, 2013

To this day, women do a disproportionate amount of household labor and childcare in marriages that consist of one man and one woman.* Maintaining a household consists of large amounts of work. Work that often not recognized as work. So what does a newly divorced woman get for her years of unpaid labor? Enter Alimony.

Alimony is meant to be financial compensation paid from the breadwinning spouse to the spouse that had been financially supported. Although alimony laws are gender-neutral, the person receiving support is the wife, in the majority of cases. Further, the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act (UMDA) in 1970 stated that spousal maintenance and child support decisions were not to be based on marital misconduct (Wardle 87). Therefore, alimony is not compensation for wrongs done, but recognition for work done.

Alimony is more than a sort of back log of wages, but also recognition of the multiple ways many wives support their husbands. Jeff Flanders in Forbes list a few of these: the wife aided the husband’s career by caring for the home, which provided time to invest in his career. While he is increasing his earning potential, she gave up her ability to have a career by investing her time in the family. When the marriage comes to an end, the a housewife is left almost unemployable while the husband’s career has not suffered.

Yet women who accept alimony payments are looked down upon. They are seen as lazy because they had the luxury of being house wives, and now they are still taking their husband’s money, even in divorce. It seems to me that women’s work, even when being legally and monetarily recognized, is still being erased.

 

* More on this coming next week.

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