Divorce attorneys across the country are seeing a rise in men asking ex-wives for spousal support, also known as alimony.
Up-to-date numbers are hard, if not impossible, to come by. According to 2010 Census records, of the 400,000 people receiving spousal support, only 3 percent were men.
Last year, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers surveyed its 1,600 members and found that 47 percent had noticed an increase in the number of women who are paying alimony. As women increasingly become the chief breadwinners, and with the rise of stay-at-home fathers, that 3 percent number is likely to rise, if it hasn't already.
"Ten years ago, when I was probably three years into my career, was the first time I saw a woman pay spousal support. This year alone, I've had seven cases where the woman is paying support," says Justin Reckers, CEO of Pacific Divorce Management, a San Diego-based financial planning firm for people divorcing.
The change is because social mores are changing, says Penelope Hefner, an attorney in Charlotte, N.C., who is also seeing an increase in men asking for spousal support.
"More fathers stay at home, and more women earn more than their husbands," Hefner says. "This shift in the economic balance naturally leads to a shift in the proportion of husbands seeking support."
In 1979, with Orr vs. Orr, the Supreme Court made it clear that there shouldn't be gender bias when it comes to alimony.
Convincing some reluctant, prideful male clients to negotiate for alimony can take some doing, but it's usually just a matter of showing them the math, according to Steven Eisman, a matrimonial attorney in New York. "He tends to want it when he realizes that without it he's going to be living in a basement apartment," Eisman says.
Sandy Arons, a certified financial divorce specialist in Brentwood, Tenn., says it seems to be easier for divorcing men with children to ask for alimony, but she recently helped a man without kids receive spousal support.