Friday, April 2, 2010

What Divorce Law is Doing to Marriage Part 34

More from the words of Jed Abraham

What emerged from the study was that marriage is the very best of all possible economic worlds for a woman. In marriage, a woman gains access to the higher income of her husband. Her standard of living soars from “-73%” to even. If anything, it is his standard of living that is threatened-it slides him from 42% to even-because his income is now supporting him and her. So if upon divorce she were to claim that he must reimburse for her human capital investment loss in the marriage, he could surely claim, as an offset, his real capital marital investment loss in her.

And one more thing. According to the study, if married men could pump up their living standards by 42% just by getting divorced, and if married women could protect against a 73% decline in their living standards just by staying married, then why didn’t more men and fewer women file for divorce? Why, indeed, did women want out of their marriage twice the rate of men?

In the long run, it didn’t matter that the study was discredited. It had been given pride of place in the popular press. Copies were disseminated by feminist activists to judges and legislators. Its argument was anointed as politically correct. Its refutation appeared in obscure technical journals; the mass media generally ignored it or reported it as filler on a back page. It didn’t matter that the numbers were wrong. The idea was basically right: an ex-husband is financially obligated to put his ex-wife in the supposed, superior economic condition she could have been in had she not married and then divorced him. That is the new, bottom-line rationale for modern, no-fault alimony.

It follows that the most important alimony factor for you-aside from your ability to pay-is whether your wife can go out to work full-time, or whether, because the kids are still young, she must stay home to take care of them. If she must, then you must pay.

Part of what goes on into determining whether she must stay home is whether she stayed home during marriage. If she worked during marriage, then her claim that she must stay home to care for the children after divorce will seem a little coy to the court.

So, when things start going downhill, it would seem you should encourage your wife to take that job she’s always wanted, the one you didn’t want her to take so she could stay home and take care of the kids. Not only will she earn marital property for you; she’ll establish a presence in the workplace from which it will be hard to argue she should withdraw.

Of course, this may not be so good for your kids. Unless she’s a very rotten mother, you would still prefer that she stay home with them. On the other hand, if she wanted to work full-time during marriage, but she didn’t only because you didn’t want her to, she’ll probably find other ways to get out of the house after divorce. She’ll develop an active social life. She’ll find volunteer work or a part-time job, the kind of job that doesn’t quite pay enough to reduce your alimony payments. So, if you encourage her to work when you begin to sense the end is near, you won’t be hurting the kids that much. And you may be saving yourself a heck of a hit in alimony, which you can then spend on your kids directly.

More on “Alimony” on next summary.