Study: Men who do not work full time may face a higher divorce risk

Research suggests that husbands who are not working full-time may be likelier to divorce. Seeking alimony may be a crucial concern for many of these men.

The factors that cause couples to divorce are typically unique, varying from marriage to marriage. Still, sociological research occasionally sheds light on surprising variables that appear to significantly increase a couple's likelihood of splitting up. A new study suggests that loss of full-time employment on a husband's part may be one of these factors.

Study findings

The study, which was published in American Sociological Review, followed 6,300 heterosexual couples and assessed various lifestyle factors to determine whether any were correlated with a higher risk of divorce. The research found that, when all other variables are equalized, couples were one-third likelier to divorce when the husband was not working full-time. The predicted probability of divorce in the next 12 months was 3.3 percent for men in this position, compared to 2.5 percent for their peers.

Potential explanations

By controlling for other variables, the study ruled out various potential explanations for these findings. The enhanced divorce risk that men face when they stop working full-time does not appear to be due to the income loss that is associated with their employment status. The increased financial independence that women have gained in recent years does not appear to be a factor either.

Other variables, such as feelings of identity loss on the part of husbands, resentment on the part of wives or depression on the part of either spouse, might be at play. However, the study simply does not provide enough insight into these factors. Still, it does indicate that many men may be at risk for divorce following deliberate or involuntary loss of full-time employment.

Seeking alimony

One important concern for men who have lost earning power or employment may be seeking spousal support or alimony. This form of support is awarded to spouses who are disadvantaged financially and require ongoing aid after divorce or assistance transitioning through the separation. In Connecticut, alimony awards are made based on several factors, including the following:

  • Each spouse's earnings, assets and sources of income
  • The occupation, skills, education, employability and earning capacity of each spouse
  • Each spouse's age, health and financial needs

The court may also consider the above factors to identify an equitable distribution of marital property.

Potential challenges

Unfortunately, many men may not receive the alimony that they could be entitled to. According to Forbes, although women have taken on the role of breadwinner in four out of 10 U.S. households, just 3 percent of all men collect alimony. This gap may partly be due to reluctance on the part of men to violate traditional gender norms by seeking financial support. However, it may also be due to other factors, such as inadvertent gender bias on the part of family law courts.

To improve the likelihood of receiving a favorable settlement, divorcing men should seek the aid of a family law attorney. An attorney may be able to offer assistance in the pursuit of a reasonable settlement that adequately provides for a spouse's financial needs.