It’s a decades-old question: When it comes to family law court, do men get a fair break? While women continue to argue that men still come out of divorce better off, it’s hard to find any real evidence that is the case — particularly when it comes to child custody and fair parenting arrangements.
What do women mean by “better off?”
The first statistic women point to is their reduced earning power in the market place compared to men. In the interest of fairness, let’s use the latest statistics. According to an August report by BusinessInsider, women earn roughly 80.5 percent of what men earn in a comparable job. Or put another way, if a man earns a relatively low wage of $20,000 a year, a woman in a comparable job will statistically earn roughly $16,000. We’re not arguing that is fair. What we are arguing is that at the lower end of the earning spectrum, courts need to look at whether the national statistic holds up.
It is not up to the courts to level the playing field in the workplace. It IS up to them to rule according to reality. To return to our example, a man earning $20,000 a year cannot afford to pay $6 - $7,000 in annual spousal maintenance and child support without slipping into poverty, while the woman has the earning potential of just $4,000 less. Pay equality is not our argument here, but putting a man into poverty while his ex-wife’s lifestyle may actually improve is not a fair judgment.
And should men have to pay for women’s retirement inequality?
Many women are also quick to point out that women face more hurdles to building an adequate retirement account than men. According to a report by TIAA, women’s attitudes toward retirement savings are different than men’s, which often mean women don’t contribute as early or as heavily. But let’s revisit what the law says: Marital assets are to be divided equally between the parties, including retirement dollars through Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO). Should the courts be penalizing men by taking into account that their ex-wives probably won’t be as disciplined in starting or continuing requirement savings after the divorce is final?
Men need to do a better job of protecting their future after divorce
Too many men “just want to get the divorce over with” when they sit down and talk with their lawyer. Right or wrong, many men have confidence they can pick themselves up by the bootstraps and will roll over for whatever their ex-wives are asking for. The reality, though, is that the statistics regarding men’s financial capacity may be valid for some, but they fall apart at the lower income levels. So men, while you may, indeed, have a strong set of bootstraps, you need to work just as hard to protect your financial future in divorce and custody matters.