By 1999, Nancy Hofman was married ten years, had three children and a career and income about to take off. She moved from corporate credit analyst for a manufacturer to stock broker for Charles Schwab, where her husband was an equally well-paid IT professional.
When the Internet bubble burst, Schwab turned to a more relationship-based client service, where Hofman, 44, really shone as a portfolio consultant in the private client division. "I really do it for the relationships," she says of investment advice. She traveled a lot while carefully choreographing the home routine with her older daughter and husband, who greeted the two younger ones after school.
Then her husband, she says, had a midlife crisis and suddenly quit his job. After a bout of depression, he enrolled in nursing school, where he had an affair with a fellow student that ended his 17-year marriage and took a job paying half of what he was making at Schwab. That would figure horribly for Hofman later in family court.
Despite the trouble, Hofman kept it friendly. Fearing a toxic legal battle, she filed her own divorce papers, assuming she and her husband would work out the details as they came along. An equal parenting plan would eliminate child support details.
But the cordiality ended when a judge ordered Hofman to pay her husband up to $6,000 in back child support and $400 a month thereafter, even though there was a co-custody living arrangement. When Hofman asked the court for a reduction, the female judge recalculated their respective incomes and raised Hofman's payment another 20%. The judge refused to consider Hofman's health insurance costs even though she had allowed them in the ex-husband's accounting.
Hofman, who lives in Avondale, Ariz., now also has to budget for her children's college education, since she no longer trusts the courts to enforce her ex's early commitment to it.
Hofman would later apply her personal experiences in a new position as managing principal with Lee Munson's Portfolio LLC, a New Mexico-based investment management firm, where she has offered a new service for clients: advice on how to structure divorce settlements fairly and manage assets afterward. She has also completed a new certification program in divorce financial analysis (the CDFA), in addition to her designations as a chartered mutual fund counselor, an accredited wealth management advisor and an accredited asset management specialist.
The incidence of women like Hofman paying child support or alimony is increasing. But actual stats are elusive since alimony data is not compiled from divorce decrees but from appeals court records, according to Randy Kessler of Atlanta-based Kessler & Solomiany Family Law Attorneys. Men don't seek "manimony" unless they believe they've got a very strong case, so few cases are appealed or counted, says Kessler, the new chair of the Family Law Practice section of the 400,000-member American Bar Association.
However, there is strong Department of Labor data showing that an increasing number of women are earning more than their spouses, the main criteria for establishing alimony. From 1992, when Good Morning America anchor Joan Lunden got hit with an $18,000-a-month temporary alimony settlement, until 2009, 4 million more wives outearned their husbands. The biggest one-year jump occurred in 2009, the depths of the credit crisis, when the percentage of wives making more than husbands jumped to 37.7%, from 34.5% in 2008. Many Web sites now encourage men to seek alimony.
Not that all men do, or take it for as long as they could. Linda Y. Leitz, a CFP, EA, and CDFA in Colorado Springs, Colo., has seen her women clients, even those who are primary earners, pay less spousal support for shorter periods. "Maybe we're behind the times," she says, "but men don't like the idea. It's horrifying and humiliating to them."
Women must also help non-custodial ex-husbands financially because of the 1984 Child Support Enforcement Amendment, which says that visiting children should enjoy the same standard of living with each parent as they do with the other.
While it's true that men need money because of the poor economy, says Kessler, "alimony and child support awards to men really are less a function of the poor economy and more a sign of women's achievement in the workforce."