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The Marriage BuyoutThe Troubled Trajectory of U.S. Alimony Law$
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Cynthia Lee Starnes

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780814708248

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814708248.001.0001

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(p.9) 1 Who Cares about Alimony?

(p.9) 1 Who Cares about Alimony?

Chapter:
(p.9) 1 Who Cares about Alimony?
Source:
The Marriage Buyout
Author(s):

Cynthia Lee Starnes

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9780814708248.003.0002

This chapter discusses the significance of alimony. A conventional marriage usually involves a primary caregiver who takes care of the children and the home, and the spouse who participates in the paid economy as an “ideal worker” unshackled by primary home responsibilities. Teamwork allows the couple to enjoy together a home with children and a family wage. But if affection fades, divorce may unmask the reality that teamwork has disparately impacted the spouses' earning capacity. Over time, investments in family labor tend to reduce earning capacity for a primary caregiver, while investments in paid labor tend to increase earning capacity for a primary breadwinner. A clean break at divorce thus means the primary caregiver will bear most of the long-term costs of family roles while the primary wage-earner will enjoy most of the benefits in the form of enhanced earning capacity. When marital property is scant, alimony is the only judicial tool for addressing this inequity. This, in a nutshell, is why alimony matters. The final section of the chapter previews common objections to alimony.

Keywords:   divorce, alimony, primary caregiver, spouses, marriage, earning capacity

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