Financial Effects of Divorce on Men and Women

One tricky thing about teaching feminist philosophy is that facts about the world really matter. So, for example, when you teach Okin on family structures and the effects of divorce, you can’t rest content with the statistics she uses– your students will quickly point out that they’re 20 years out of date. Even if you get stats from 5 years ago the students balk. And one of the places they balk most, I find, is on the claims about men’s post-divorce income improving while women’s decline. They will insist that now this is different because men pay so much maintenance and divorce settlements are fairer. Well, for at least a little while (and at least in the UK)*, you can cite this article, sent in by lp.

A few extracts:

Divorce makes men – and particularly fathers – significantly richer. When a father separates from the mother of his children, according to new research, his available income increases by around one third. Women, in contrast, suffer severe financial penalties…

Jenkins’s research found that the incomes of “separating husbands” rise “immediately and continuously” in the years following a marital split. “The differences between the sexes are stark,” he said. “But this is not so much a gender thing as a parent thing. The key differences are not between men and women, but between fathers and mothers.”…

Jenkins found that the positive effect on men’s finances is so significant that divorce can even lift them out of poverty, while women are far more likely to be plunged into destitution. Separated women have a poverty rate of 27% – almost three times that of their former husbands…

Maintenance paid by former partners also has little impact, said Jenkins, as just 31% of separated mothers receive payment from the father of their children.

*Note that this study is actually based on data collected 2001-2004. But that’s the way studies are– and it’s all the more reason to be as up-to-date as possible. The stuff that came out in 1990 is actually based on older data.

8 thoughts on “Financial Effects of Divorce on Men and Women

  1. I wonder how this will play out amongst the Men’s Rights Advocates. I suspect it will act as support for their claim that men should be given child-rearing duties because women are so much worse off.

    Though, I wonder how they might respond to the financial burden women face when given child-rearing duties given their position that men face too stiff penalties for divorce.

    But it is an interesting dichotomy-they use the evidence as support for their claim about raising children, but argue against the evidence when talking about the financial burden men face when divorcing.

  2. I actually just finished reading a book titled, “Divorce Buddy System” written by J. Richard Kulerski. This book tells you, word for word, how to finesse your way through the money part of the divorce.

  3. Seven Myths of Divorce
    (provided by Orli Peter Ph.D.)

    There are many stereotypes about divorce that receive a lot of attention in the media but can be quite harmful to both women and men. Here are some of them, contrasted with what recent sociological and psychological studies tell us:

    Myth 1: Most men cheat on their wives.

    Actually, the best designed study to date indicates that nearly 80% of men have never cheated on their wives.

    Myth 2: Most divorcing women are jilted by their husbands.

    Many studies have corroborated that the great majority of divorces (two thirds to three quarters, depending on the study) are initiated by women. This makes sense because numerous studies indicate that men are generally happier being married than are women, they report less marital frustration and dissatisfaction, and are less likely to consider the option of divorce.

    Myth 3: Women bitterly regret divorce.

    Most divorced women do not regret divorcing. Moreover, divorced women are generally happier than divorced men. And one large study suggests that many middle-aged women become happier after their divorce. These women showed an increase in positive self-image and self-esteem and were inspired by their divorce to gain more control of their lives. Many enjoyed sex more after their divorce.

    Myth 4: Women emerge from divorce more emotionally scarred and psychologically damaged than do men.

    This is generally not true. Not only are divorced women happier than divorced men, but they are better off emotionally too. In study after study they consistently outscore divorced men on psychological tests to assess emotional health and well-being.

    Myth 5: Ex-spouses are highly antagonistic toward one another, even to the point of acting unethically.

    Divorced couples, of course, vary widely in the civility of their interactions. But about half of divorced men and women even describe their relationship with their ex-spouse as friendly or cooperative.

    Myth 6: Most divorced men can remarry while most divorced women cannot.

    It is true that divorced women are less likely than divorced men to want to remarry (after all, they are happier than the men with being divorced). But both groups do remarry at very high rates–and soon. About 80% of divorced men and 75% of divorced women remarry whether or not they have children, and most do so within three years.

    Myth 7: The economic consequences of divorce devastate women more than men.

    Women are generally worse off financially in the years immediately following a divorce. This has less to do with divorce than with the fact that women generally make less money than men. But, one important study indicates that, five years later, after most men and women have remarried, women’s household incomes increased slightly more above predivorce levels than those of their ex-husbands. Furthermore, one very recent study indicates that women are generally more satisfied with their divorce settlements than men, and that this satisfaction is stable over time.

    Myths such as these offer false lessons regarding both what men and women should expect from each other and how one should behave in divorce. The truth is richer and contains many positive possibilities for both women and men.

    Information provided by:
    Orli Peter, Ph.D. located at

  4. In regard to the financial burden women face due to custody:
    I would gladly take a pay cut if it meant more time with my kid (assuming I divorce). Those two things, decreased discretionary income and having children, go hand in hand. I would venture to guess that if men were to get custody in proportion to women, those numbers would look quite different. I know this is anectdotal, but the men I know who get divorced (and have children) got crushed in their allimony and child support. Perhaps if the woman needs both she should not have primary custody?

  5. ’til death do us part is sometimes an unfortunate truth. There does seem to be a sense of entitlement among some (not all) divorced women. There is a sense that finally they can have it all. Unfortunately, this fantasy is often enabled by the legal process as it slants heavily in the direction of the woman. My wife’s attorney told her “you can do anything you want” in terms of custody, picking a city to live in, forcing me to pay regardless of my ability to find work in whatever city she decided to move to (to be with my kids). I’m not exaggerating. Men that read this will likely not be surprised at all. Since my divorce, I have been shocked at the number of divorced woman I am meeting who have as much child custody as they choose and, somehow, at least half the week off work. Some don’t work at all. They seem quite happy. If I had a dime for every “I just want to travel!!!” I’ve heard….For each woman like this I meet, I wonder if there is a guy who wishes he could see his kids more and worries about what will happen if he loses his 60 hour/week job. There should be no mystery why many divorced women feel a greater sense of freedom than men. The courts hand it to them on many occasions. I see things shifting in a more fair direction. 50/50 parenting plans will be the standard, unless one of the parents is not safe for the kids. And women who have always wanted to be treated equally, will get their wish. Guessing the travel industry will feel a bit of a lull as this happens. Bitter? No. I did OK in my divorce despite losing my home and all my money. I live with my kids half the time. Of course I work more than my ex and pay her, but I could be much worse off. What I learned about what happens to many men during divorce was absolutely shocking to me. Frankly, it ruins many of them financially. Very unfortunately, the few divorced women I know now that bare the same burden as the divorced men I know, happen to have ex-husbands who are drunks or total losers who don’t work and can’t pay…..and don’t want to be with their kids anyway. An unfortunate situation no matter how you look at it.

  6. Well, i can’t speak for statistics! In the two years leading up to our separation and ultimate divorce, my wife suffered from a chronic intractable alimentary condition and persistent, but not formally diagnosed, depression. Feeling the need to address the issue, I waded in with sledge hammer sensitivity, a lot of discontent and little premeditation, hoping to bring the matter to a head and resolve the serious discord between us. Predictably and unfortunately, it backfired. I did not want a divorce. Over the next five years I successfully defended myself against charges of domestic violence, child abuse against both my infant children and downloading pedophile images over the internet. All my business computers were confiscated without notice but I had the ability to recover quickly. Divorce wrecks your head and eventually my once very profitable business folded. Wife, business, income and car are all gone now but I thank the Lord that throughout all this, I’ve been able to stay very close to my children. Expecting my fortunes to recover and having learned my lesson, I did not pursue a maintenance order against my doctor wife. A qualified realtor, I picked up an agency for a hot product where I could tailor my my time to the 50/50 parenting schedule ordered by the judge on day one. My first check was a while coming but it’s lodged now and I’ve been offered a lot more product to sell at much improved commission rates. I’m learning to promote my wears online which means that I can work from home. I have no message, principle or point to labor. My children have had maximum contact within the context of the 50/50 parenting arrangement which the judge enforced on day one. Spiritually, my children and I have come to know the saving grace of the Lord. Emotionally, I hold no grudges and financially, though my kids and I are going nowhere in a hurry, the outlook is good and prospects are bright.

  7. One thing no one seems to mention is that women get pregnant and often, must take time to care for themselves physically. Some can work but some are compromised physically and it takes a toll. If a couple agrees that a mom is to stay home, that time away from the workforce causes an avalanche of disadvantage when and if that mom tries to work again. There is much talk of this economy being demoralizing to men and women. Women are often demoralized and disenfranchised when they have a spouse that betrays them or find themselves living with the bare minimum child support. Women often trade money for their children’s emotional well being. Often moms and dads agree on this whether married or divorced. The problem occurs when we discount the children’s life style and children’s stability. Kids having to live in two homes is not fun and often logistically a burden. I see kid’s rights to live in the same lifestyle as being ignored in most litigious cases. Perhaps policy should change and divorce should not be legally allowed unless and until both parents can afford to live in a bachelor pad and have their children stay in their home with parents living out of a suitcase.

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