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Marriage income shift causes new Texas divorce issues

The traditional top wage earners among married couples have been husbands, but times are changing. Women in Texas and across the U.S. have increased their presence in higher learning institutions and their influence in workplaces, leading to increased individual incomes.

Women take advanced education and fat paychecks into marriage, sometimes eclipsing their spouses' salaries. Pew Research Center examined 2010 census data and found that wives' incomes outstripped husbands in about one of every three married couples' homes. Divorce sends some high-earning wives into shock when ex-husbands make asset demands and spousal support requests.

Legal observers are seeing what they call a "gender reversal" in divorce litigation. Ex-wives' voices are now blended with ex-husbands' complaints about equitable property division and alimony. Attorneys say the income balance within families is changing, but attitudes about ex-spousal obligations apparently have not.

Women breadwinners appear to be just as resentful as higher-income men about exes who make claims to retirement accounts and request support. Bread winning wives sometimes feel they've contributed enough to a marriage by raising children, managing a home and earning the bulk of the family's income.

Attorneys have noticed that some men dislike earning less than an ex and don't want to become support "dependents." Some men point out that women seem perfectly content to let bread-winning husbands pay alimony or split savings in divorce.

Matrimonial attorneys say gender conflicts over earnings and marital contributions do not have to interfere with the creation of a fair divorce settlement. Many Texas couples now use nontraditional methods like divorce mediation or collaboration as a way to resolve problems before a final agreement.

All the emotionally-sensitive issues can be brought out on the table as spouses work toward understanding and compromise. Divorce does not have to be a winner-takes-all conflict. Legal professionals help divorcing spouses realize that settlement solutions exist as long as the interests of both parties are recognized.

Source: huffingtonpost.com, "Divorcing Mr. Mom," Katherine Eisold Miller, March 2, 2013

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