Eleventh-grade debate class. My assignment was to debate a woman’s right to equal pay in the workforce. I wore a Rosie the Riveter shirt. My nickname at the time was the “man-hater. My life plan at age 17 was to barge head first into the real world. No man was going to stand in my way. Oh, cruel world, how this debate would bite me in the ass 18 years later.
Let’s get something straight, I am not in the 1%. Not even close. I shop at Target. I drive a used car. I occasionally splurge at Homegoods, because honestly, who can walk into that store and only spend $50? I have a great job and I make good money, but I started at the bottom and I have been in the same position almost 13 years. I am nowhere near owning a Yacht and being on the guest list for an Usher party. Yet I find myself facing the fact that I have to pay alimony to a man whose dating profile I found in the middle of the night. WHAT?! He cheated, not me!
In the beginning of the divorce process, we had a very worthwhile (NOT) four-way meeting between attorneys to discuss the division of assets. I recommend a stiff drink prior. Both my lawyer (and my mother) told me to stay cool. Don’t get upset. I lasted 5 minutes until the discussion of alimony. I was informed by my husband’s attorney that he was entitled to five years of support at $23,000 a year. Insert: expletives, screaming, tears. End four-way meeting.
My husband’s lawyer uses words like she is testifying on Capitol Hill. I find this irritating and insulting. As if her fancy words make my situation any better. She noted in our alimony discussion I was “shirking” my financial obligations to my husband. Oh, right. After taking care of all our finances for over a decade, constantly nagging him about buying coffees every day, and did he really need a tanning AND massage membership (true story). But sure, I am the one who was SHIRKING. She doesn’t use the word alimony- t’s pendite lite – aka temporary spousal support. Same shit. Pendite lite, alimony, writing a check to scum, call it whatever you like. It is infuriating and I was fighting it.
I feel anyone going through a divorce should suddenly become very well-read in all aspects of their state divorce laws regarding how-badly-you-are-about-to-get-screwed. I poured over articles and legislation on alimony. Did you know less than 3% of men are awarded alimony every year? Less than 400,000 men in the United States receive alimony. Oh hooray! I always wanted to be a statistic! No one can believe it when I tell them. Wait, you have to pay HIM?! I had a very lengthy discussion with a representative from my car insurance regarding this. People, even men I work with, don’t understand it. And guess what? Frankly, neither do I.
I suppose as I reach far into the depths of my silver lining basket (it isn’t very big), there is one saving grace. In 2014, New Jersey ended permanent alimony. Hallelujah. Can you imagine my son pushing me in my wheelchair to deliver my alimony payment to my ex-husband at his nursing home?! I would stuff that check into his jello cup, you can be sure of that.
Let’s review the new and fun categories of alimony.
1. Rehabilitative Alimony: Awarded to assist spouses who have good employment prospects of returning to the workforce. Hence, to “rehabilitate.” My spouse is employed and makes decent money. He does not qualify for this, as he is already employed. Next!
2. Reimbursement Alimony: Awarded to pay back support of an advanced education where the dependent spouse was in a professional school program during most of the marriage. Not applicable since my ex did no such thing unless you consider perfecting his selfies for all his Facebook profile photos “pursuing advanced education.” Next!
3. Open Durational Alimony: Awarded based upon the needs of the recipient, as in there are valid needs why the spouse cannot earn enough money to support themselves for a period of time. An example would be a spouse who was a stay-at-home parent and needs time to gain marketable skills to enter the workforce. Again, not applicable since my ex has a decent job with his own benefits available. Next!
4. Limited Duration Alimony: Alimony awarded for short-term marriages where a spouse has good employment prospects for the future. This is the category I fall in to. Yes, this is it. Someone, please explain to me how an individual who is EMPLOYED deserves five years of support under this clause?!
My lawyer explained it like this, the court will see I make more than my ex-husband. They consider that a “substantial” difference in pay. Sure, if I made $2 million a year and he made $30,000, fine. He might have a leg to stand on. But I don’t. And they don’t care. And after debating for equal pay and women’s rights when I was young and apparently naive, I now find my hard work down the toilet. And for what? This has to be, hands-down, the worst part of this divorce process thus far. I cannot even stomach paying this man money every month. Because at the end of the day, I don’t feel he qualifies, let alone deserves it. Oh hello, Internet women my husband was sexting, please enjoy drinks and dinner on me since I am paying for it.
At the end of the day, we all want closure. I find the fact of paying alimony the opposite of closure, especially because he cheated. It will be a monthly reminder of how my hard work is now being paid to someone who could simply budget better and work overtime to make extra money. Why not take that higher road? I am bitter. I wanted him, for once, to do the right thing. He ended our marriage doing everything wrong. And I am left falling fast – plummeting to the ground, wondering when I am going to hit the bottom. I never got a real apology for what he did to me – to our family – and I cannot wrap my head around this man pushing for alimony, feeling he is entitled to it. It is a hard pill to swallow. I was the good person and I was hoping he could be the good person at the end of the day, too.
A friend sent me this quote this week that I find appropriate and will share.
“Closure is a joke. The only apology you need is the one you owe yourself for staying as long as you did. The only conversation you need to have and the only person you need to see again is the person in the mirror. Look at yourself and say, you know what, I fucked up. My worth is more than that. That’s your closure. You can’t keep dancing with the devil and wonder why you’re still in hell.”
You bet. Stay strong, ladies. You wear that Rosie the Riveter shirt and fight for what you feel is right. At least alimony is a tax write-off.