Alabama Child Support Watch: Mothers Top Earners in 40 Percent of Families

Posted by Steven D. Eversole | Jun 12, 2013 | 0 Comments

Once upon a time, it was practically a given that if a couple with children divorced, the husband would be the one tapped to pay child support and possibly spousal support.


That is no longer the reality of child support in Birmingham, with a new study finding that 40 percent of modern family households are headed by women as the primary breadwinner.

That is the highest percentage to date, and a spike of more than 260 percent from what it was in 1960, when women made up just 11 percent of top-earners in American households.

The findings were revealed as part of an analysis by the Pew Research Center, which sought to highlight the role of women in keeping their families financially stable.

Along with this change, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reports a shift along those same lines: more mothers paying child support. A recent survey by the AAML found that nearly 60 percent of the country's top divorce lawyers say there has been an increase in this phenomenon just over the last three years. Similarly, nearly 50 percent said they had noticed a rise in women being responsible for alimony.

As women begin earning a larger share of the income, she ultimately becomes vulnerable to having to pay child support if the marriage doesn't work out.

Inevitably, this has given rise to another increasing trend, which is more fathers being primary caretakers of the children. If during the marriage, the mother was responsibly for financially supporting the family, it's only logical to assume that type of arrangement is going to continue after the marriage ends, and that the father will continue to be the primary caretaker.

This is common sense, but in some more conservative states, such as Alabama, where male and female roles are seen as more inflexible, fathers might face more of an uphill battle. That's where having an experienced Birmingham child support attorney can help.

Alimony payments may be difficult to obtain, but only because they are becoming exceedingly rare in all divorce cases – especially in the case of shorter marriages. Still, a father may be able to make a strong argument for it, particularly if he supported the mother during her education and/or the pair mutually agreed during the marriage that he would step out of his career or accept a significant pay decrease to take on the role of raising the children.

Still, on the whole, women tend to earn less than men in the workforce. It wasn't long ago that Alabama native Lilly Ledbetter's fight for equal pay was the driving force behind President Barack Obama's 2009 fair-pay act.

We have no doubt that the tide will continue to shift further, driven by a number of changes that include higher rates of education among women and simply having more women in the workforce. As of today, more women than men hold bachelor's degrees, and females comprise almost 50 percent of the American workforce.

In 1968, some 37 percent of working women were mothers. Now, they comprise of about 65 percent.

Other factors for this change include major job losses in the sectors of manufacturing and construction, which are mostly male-dominated fields.

In all, there are nearly 14 million U.S. households headed by women who are top-earners. Of those, about 5 million are married. We don't know how many of the rest are divorced, but we do know that the annual income gap between married female breadwinners and single mothers was significant – $80,000 to about $23,000.

Child support can be based on a myriad of complex factors, and it's important for those involved to seek counsel from an experienced family law attorney.

If you are contemplating a divorce, contact Birmingham Family Law Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

Additional Resources:

Mothers now top earners in 4 in 10 households, May 29, 2013, By Hope Yen, Associated Press

About the Author

Steven D. Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama


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