The Paradox of Alimony for Men
When it comes to alimony, the law is blind to gender. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, that’s how family law works,” said Laura Wasser, the California lawyer representing singer Kelly Clarkson in her high-profile divorce.
Even though the Supreme Court ruled that alimony is gender neutral in 1979, Wasser said that women have still been surprised to find themselves doling out spousal support. “What amazes me is that many bright and sophisticated women don’t realize they will have to pay,” said Wasser, declining to comment directly on Clarkson’s case.
Clarkson and Brandon Blackstock, an entertainment agent, split in 2020 after seven years of marriage. Despite a prenuptial agreement recently upheld in a Los Angeles court, Blackstock has been awarded temporary monthly spousal support of nearly $150,000, half of his initial ask.
In addition to the monthly spousal support paid by Clarkson, Blackstock also receives child support of around $45,000 per month, despite Clarkson having been awarded primary physical custody of their two children.
This might seem like a lot, but according to documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Clarkson’s monthly income is $1.9 million. She follows in the wake of other female stars whose settlements were way steeper: Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor, Rosanne Barr, Kirstie Alley and Janet Jackson have all paid hugely in their divorces.
Public response to the breakup has not been favorable to Blackstock who, on Twitter, has been called out as a “parasite,” and “an opportunist,” among other unprintable names.
Part of the shock over such settlements, according to Alexandra Killewald, a sociology professor at Harvard who studies the effects of unequal earning on relationships, may be influenced by preconceived notions about gender. “Our culture expects men to be the primary breadwinners and there are simply more options for women for part-time work or to take time for child rearing,” Killewald said.
Another reason that men being awarded alimony can come as a surprise is because it doesn’t happen that often.
According to a 2019 study of census data by the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research group, half of United States households are headed by women, on average. Despite an increase in stay-at-home husbands, far more women than men seek and receive spousal support.
文／Louise Rafkin 譯／莊蕙嘉