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Happy Mother's Day? More women paying alimony, child support

The Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers occasionally polls its members about trends in divorce, legal separation, child custody, division of property and other things related to the dissolution of a marriage. The most recent survey asked about spousal maintenance, or alimony. It turns out that attorneys across the country have noticed an uptick in the number of women paying both spousal maintenance and child support.

According to the survey, 56 percent of divorce lawyers have noticed that the tables have been turned on child support payments over the last three years; 47 percent said more women are paying alimony than before. The academy's explanation is that women have made such strides in the workplace that they're earning more than their ex-husbands: "The glass ceiling has been pierced," according to the academy's president-elect.

While it may be true that more women are the major breadwinners in their families, it is hard not to take issue with the academy's claim that women have "really moved up" the financial and corporate ladders. The fact is, women in Illinois still earn 24 percent less than their male counterparts. Nationwide, women earn 23 percent less.

Those figures come from the American Association of University Women's annual analysis of the pay gap between the genders. The AAUW asserts that the wage differential is responsible in part for the high poverty rate among single mothers.

The AAUW data shows that becoming a mom can have a negative impact on a woman's wages in the long run. Taking time off after the birth of a child is often an economic necessity for low-income women, because child care costs more than these women earn. Regardless of their economic status, though, women often pay the "motherhood penalty" when they return to the workforce: Employers offer lower salaries to returning moms than they do to other women. There is no equivalent "fatherhood penalty."

We'll continue this in our next post.

Sources:

Reuters, "Divorce courts mirror society as more women pay alimony," Patricia Reaney, May 10, 2012

American Association of University Women, "The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap, 2012," April 2012

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