Follow “Ask Carolyn” on Twitter
I am thinking about separating from my wife of 10 years. She is a doctor and makes a lot more money than me. I am a school teacher and make extra money coaching, but she still makes a lot more than me. Neither of us are having an affair, but I am pretty miserable. We are both thirty-three. She works all the time and I take care of our two children. I also worked for two years while she finished her medical degree. I hate to ask, could I get alimony as a man? Our lifestyle has been great, and I would like to maintain that lifestyle as best I can. Thanks Carolyn.
Very interesting question, but the answer is quite simple. Men can get alimony on equal footing with women, at least theoretically. This issue was resolved by the United States Supreme Court in 1979 in the noteworthy case of William Orr v. Lillian Orr. In Orr, the Supreme Court held that an Alabama statute that made alimony only available to women was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which provides for equal protection. An interesting twist to the Orr situation was that Mr. Orr did not want alimony from Ms. Orr; rather Mr. Orr was upset that women never had to pay alimony under the Alabama statute. Mr. Orr’s argument that the statute discriminated against men won.
Some men do get alimony in North Carolina, but there are vastly more reported cases of women receiving alimony. Times are changing. I personally believe toward more men receiving alimony. The thirties age group has a fairly typical scenario in divorce of both spouses working, or at least no one has been out of the workforce for 20 years. Neither of you are out of the work force. Contrast this with divorces of persons in their late forties or fifties where one spouse did drop out of the public labor force to raise children—those dependent spouses who haven’t worked publicly for 20 years generally receive alimony if the supporting spouse has the ability to pay. Continue reading →