By now, most of us have the transcript of the marriage adverse men memorized. Usually at or near the top of their unsolicited anti-marriage rants are the “unfair divorce laws.” This is often followed closely by the “unfair child support laws” but we’ll address that second topic another day.
I usually ignore these men because according to them divorce laws are archaic monsters that came into existence after the extinction of the dinosaurs and despite their general lack of evolution, like the menacing great white shark or equally formidable salt water crocodile, they still manage to thrive in the ecosystem. These primitive divorce laws continue to claw at the progress of an otherwise modern society. Divorce laws exist only to destroy innocent men, castrate their ability to date, and rob them of half their assets and their precious jewels. Finally, divorce laws render these men unsuitable for other women, limits their ability to procreate, and generally prevents them from functioning normally in society post-divorce.
As it turns out, Massachusetts agreed (somewhat) with these men’s vision of the post apocalyptic divorce wasteland. Therefore, the state recently became one of the first to make a significant change in divorce laws that better reflects – in their opinion – changes in modern day society. Specifically, changes to the law will better assist men in recovering post-divorce and, by the court’s estimate, encourage women to move forward after divorce without taking advantage of the system or their ex-husbands. For example, some women chose to live with another man while continuing to collect a check from their ex-husband because they knew re-marrying would end their alimony checks. Other women sued their ex-husband for more money if he remarried and his household income increased. The most contentious change was the removal of lifetime alimony payments. CNN featured two opinions on these changes to the law, one from a divorce consultant (a man) who championed for the change and one from a lawyer (a woman) who argued the changes are unfair to women.
I usually don’t take sides in my pieces, because I generally believe there is always two-sides to a story. This time, not so much. Below are 5 reasons I believe Massachusetts’ new divorce laws are not unfair to women but they are more fair to men. In fact, I believe similar laws should be enacted across the country, but let’s stick with Massachusetts for today.
1. No able bodied person deserves LIFETIME alimony. Split the assets? Fine. Child support for the children? Fine. Pay you for the rest of your life? Hell no. Before the change in divorce law in MA, spouses (mostly men) were (sometimes) expected to pay alimony for the rest of their ex’s life, unless they remarried. This might have made sense in the past due to the historical disenfranchisement of women, but in present day society, such a law has no place on the books. A disabled ex-spouse aside, I cannot think of any logical reason why a full grown adult who is perfectly capable of acquiring and attaining gainful employment should be paid by another adult when the prior adult gains no benefit in their life from their services. MA’s new law empowers judges to determine an amount of payment over a defined period of time as you transition from living as a couple to living alone. This transition should not take you the rest of your life, which is why I agree it should be finite not infinite.
2. Marriage is a contract. Divorce is a breach of contract. I’ve never been married, but I don’t understand the theory behind divorce laws in this country other than to wreak financial and emotional havoc on one or both partners. These are two legally (assuming you signed the papers) consenting adults who have decided they no longer want to be together in holy matrimony. If you want to end your marriage that is your choice. If the government wants to take this opportunity to levy a heavy fine and punishment upon you both as a result, that’s fine. However, such a penalty should be limited – ages of the children factored in accordingly – and that should be that. Neither partner should be forced into financial obligation to an ex-mate for the rest of their life when you have already decided that you no longer want to be obligated to one another for the rest of your lives. If the marriage is terminated; unfortunately, the benefits of the institution of marriage should go with it.
3. Choices made in the marriage as a couple do not suddenly become the responsibility of one partner in divorce. I’m not going to win any popularity awards with this one but here goes nothing… If a woman, because I recognize that is usually the case – but this applies to men as well – elects to be a stay at home mother or father within the confines of the marriage, I still believe that is a choice made by both partners. Therefore, should a divorce occur in the future, I honestly don’t understand why a man (or woman) should be obligated financially to compensate for their partner’s choice to forgo career or personal development. For instance, if I quit my job to pursue my writing career full-time and then my writing career doesn’t work out. I can’t expect that my prior job owes me for all my lost wages and career advancement over the years. It was my choice to make – and I made it.
In the woman’s op-ed, she argues that the value of women’s contributions to the household are not recognized in the new law. I disagree. I recognize that both partner’s contributions to the house – even if not always strictly demonstrated financially – are important and both benefit from the other. However, as I said in point #2 these agreements are within the confines of a marriage. When that marriage is terminated, obligations made in the marriage, in my opinion, do not apply outside the marriage. Even if they do, they should not apply for a lifetime. Whether we want to admit it or not, both men and women are fully aware of the statistics showing 50% of marrages end in divorce. As such, both partners are taking an equal risk and one should not be punished more than the other – infidelity and other specialty circumstance withstanding – simply because the marriage itself did not work out.
4. Your X-husband should not be punished for the unfairness of society. While up for debate, many men still make more money than women for the same work. That’s an ailment of society. This is not your husband’s fault. Why should he have to pay you for the rest of your life because society is unfair? He shouldn’t. That doesn’t make sense.
5. I hate the term “accustomed to a certain lifestyle.” This post is already wordy, so I’m going to keep this brief. If you became “accustomed to a certain lifestyle,” then you can get unaccustomed just like you were un-accustomed before you got accustomed. I’m accustomed to my job paying me every two-weeks, but if they fire my ass, I will have no choice but to get accustomed to being unemployed. I guess I’m a bit confused how someone can claim independence out of the same mouth that demands dependence on a lifetime of monetary payments from someone they are no longer married. If we have made the decision to move on with our lives a part from one another, then let’s truly move on with our lives in all aspects, including the financial.
Question & Answer: Do you think divorce laws are unfair and should be changed to better reflect changes in modern society? Why or why not? If yes, do you think Massachusetts’ changes to its divorce law is better aligned or have they done more harm than good? Do you think a wife (or husband) should be entitled to a lifetime of alimony from their X?