NOTE: This blog was originally published on December 6, 2012. It was revised for greater distinction between personal opinion and fact.
German divorcées of long-term marriages are given some flexibility on support payments that come with ending a union due to upcoming law provisions.
Newly developed legislation will be proposed to the Bundestag lower house of parliament to adjust divorce maintenance payments to accommodate married homemakers.
An article titled “Divorce Deals Should Factor in Marriage Length” from The Local states that post-divorce payments may be recalculated for stay-at-home spouses who likely have little to no income, depending on how long the marriage lasted. The provision intends to save housewives or husbands from taking on unmanageable fees from alimony, child support, and their own living costs after relying on their spouse for so long.
The idea of such a law seems reasonable and fair at face value, but I found it riddled with too much uncertainty to actually be effective.
For one, the lawmakers defending this provision seem biased to women facing divorce. The quotes in the article referenced complications that only housewives or stay-at-home moms might face. There seemed to be little to no concern for men in the same situation, aside from the author of the article, who makes effort to include the Mr. Moms out there.
Ute Granold, a legal expert for the Conservative Union parliamentary fraction told Welt am Sonntag newspaper, “We want [to make sure] that married women who got married a long time ago don’t fall into an abyss in case of a divorce.”
To add to that, “Bavarian state Justice Minister Beate Merk told the paper she wanted the new law to include a provision for divorced mothers with one or more children under 15 to clarify that they would not be expected to work full-time,” reads the article.
A sense of favoritism for the female partner seems apparent and this just doesn’t set well with me. From what I can tell, preferential treatment will be shown to women and mother divorcées when adjusting the maintenance payments in court. Judges may not take as much pity on a stay-at-home husband.
Of course, as a woman, I can see why there is less emphasis being placed on the male counterparts, but I am no proponent of double standards. If the law declares to uphold a “fair balance of interests,” then it should address and acknowledge both parties involved.
In the US, the basic guidelines for determining maintenance payments are: the standard of living established during the marriage, the length of marriage, the ability of the lesser-income spouse to support him or herself (and children, if applicable), and the conduct of both during the relationship. This comes from examining several states’ divorce laws, including my own state. Missouri’s Revised Statutes were last modified August 2012.
Now I’d assume the actual wording of the German divorce law is gender neutral, but when the officials upholding the law are so defensive of female homemakers, it makes me question their integrity.
Aside from the female bias, there’s the obvious question of “how long is long enough?” On what guidelines is the divorce system basing the length of time a couple is married? And on that note, why does the longevity of the relationship matter? If a newlywed abandons his/her job and livelihood to move for a new job their partner just got, and things don’t pan out after two years, why can’t the law apply to him/her as well?
These questions won’t likely be answered until the law is actually presented. I admit the this new legislation has hints of usefulness, but there are simply too many loose ends and uncertainties surrounding the issue for it to be immediately effective.
Comments to the article seem indifferent to the provisions as well—some in approval, and others in discontent.