The Revolt of the "Second Wives Club"

Divorced men who are under court orders to pay their wives spousal support, (sometimes referred to as alimony) particularly permanent spousal support, are receiving political assistance from the woman who would like to become or who are their subsequent spouses. These "second wives" are organizing around the country and encouraging state legislators to pass laws that limit the obligation to pay spousal support. The motivation seems to be that these men are limited in the support that they can provide their subsequent spouses while they are obligated to pay their first spouses. Pardon the obvious assumption that it's the men who are paying spousal support. The author acknowledges that increasingly well-paid women are also obligated to pay spousal support to their former husbands. However, the visible organizers of this movement seem to be the women.

In Michigan, the legal basis for awarded spousal support is based on eleven (11) factors, that include:

  • length of the marriage
  • number of children born during the marriage
  • who was the primary care provider of those children
  • age of the spouse asking for spousal support
  • health of the spouse asking for spousal support
  • income earning ability of the spouse asking for spousal support
  • income earning capacity of the spouse who will pay spousal support
  • income differential between the spouses
  • standard of living of the family
  • whether one party was at fault in ending the marriage
  • any other factors that impact the situation of the claiming spouse, such as having the primary care of a disabled child born during the marriage that inhibits her ability to work outside the home.

Based on these criteria, long-term or permanent spousal support is awarded after a long-term marriage lasting usually over 27 years, where the parties had children and one spouse was the primary care provider for the children. The claiming spouse is often a person who has been out of the work force for a long term, is older and would have difficulty re-establishing a career after the marriage. It can also be awarded when the claiming spouse has become disabled.

Long-term or permanent spousal support recognizes that marriage is a partnership where both parties contribute services that support the other. The fact that both parties continued in the marriage where one party was the principal wage-earner and the other worked principally in the home, is an acknowledgment that they each received benefits from this arrangement. Otherwise the marriage would not have lasted.

As legislators and "second wives club" members work to terminate support to former long-term marriage partners, they should consider not just their own needs, but the needs of the former spouses who supported their partners for many years and the needs of the children of those marriages.