According to a recent Bowling Green State University study, married women in dual-income households are not only contributing more to total household incomes, but a growing number of women are also out-earning their respective husbands.
Given the fact that husbands have historically been the main breadwinners in a marriage, this upward trend in wives’ incomes may be signaling a reversal of traditional marital income streams – or at least a balancing out.
Interestingly, for high-earning wives considering a divorce, this increase in their share of household income may also impact how they approach and handle the ending of their marriages.
Income Study and Potential Changes to Wives’ Divorce Considerations
Researchers involved in the recent study discovered that wives in dual-earning couples were contributing, on average, 40 percent to total household income in 2011 – compared to only 30 percent in 2006. Moreover, the study found that more wives were beginning to earn more than their husbands, which was defined as earning at least 60 percent of the household income. Specifically, roughly 16 percent of woman out-earned their husbands in 2011 – an increase from only 13 percent five years earlier.
While the number of wives who out-earn their husbands still occurs far less than in the majority of marriages, the recent study indicates that it is becoming much more common than in years past. And, for those women who do in fact earn more, they will likely face unique circumstances if they ever decide to seek a divorce.
For instance, in years past women often sought spousal support payments during a divorce since many wives earned less than their husbands. But, in marriages in which the woman earns more, she needs to be aware that she will likely not only be ineligible for spousal support, but that her husband may seek these payments from her instead.
Accordingly, for high income-earning women it is often best to consider the possibility of divorce before even getting married in the first place – which can be done by drafting a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement can help ensure a woman’s assets are protected from a disproportional division if her marriage ever ends in divorce.
However, these divorce considerations are not specific to women. They are applicable to anyone who is concerned about asset division should the marriage end in divorce – both women and men. Thus, if you are currently about to get married and want to ensure your assets are protected as much as possible, or already married and considering a divorce, it is often advisable to speak with an experienced family law attorney who can help defend your interests and outline your options given your particular circumstances.