19 Duke J. Gender L. & Pol'y 41 (2011-2012)
Alimony: What Social Science and Popular Culture Tells Us about Women, Guilt, and Spousal Support after Divorce

handle is hein.journals/djglp19 and id is 43 raw text is: Alimony: What Social Science and Popular Culture Tell Us About
Women, Guilt, and Spousal Support After Divorce
JUDITH G. MCMULLEN*
ABSTRACT
Over the past few decades, fewer divorcing women have received alimony, and when
alimony awards are made, they are in declining amounts and for shorter periods of time.
Conventional explanations of this trend focus on legal changes that have made divorces
easier to obtain, as well as social changes that have led to larger numbers of married
women in the paid workforce, and to greater social tolerance of divorce. Certainly these
changes partly explain the downward trend in alimony, but they do not fully explain
why alimony awards continue to decline, even among women who do not have viable job
skills at the time of divorce and who experience severe post-divorce financial hardship.
This article looks to the women themselves and uses social science research to
examine gender differences in emotional reactions to marriage and divorce. The article
argues that women's tendency to assume emotional responsibility for the success of the
marriage and parenting, and in particular women's greater susceptibility to feelings of
guilt and shame about divorce and parenting, make it difficult for many women to
successfully negotiate for alimony. Further, the article looks at women's feelings and
behaviors in negotiation situations, arguing that social pressures exacerbate the feelings
of guilt over the divorce and lead women to accept unfavorable outcomes. Ultimately,
this article concludes that the legal system may need to impose solutions, such as
mandatory pre-nuptial agreements or alimony formulas, in order to achieve a degree of
predictability and fairness in alimony outcomes.
I. INTRODUCTION
Alimonyl-a stream of income paid by one ex-spouse to another-is
frequently discussed in media stories about divorces of the rich and famous.
Camille Grammer, a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star and ex-wife of actor
Kelsey Grammer, may be getting as much as $50 million dollars in her divorce.2
Ms. Grammer, a mother of two who was married to Mr. Grammer for thirteen
years, previously rejected a settlement offer of $30 million because the offer did
not include alimony or child support.3 In another story, it is reported that movie
*  Professor of Law, Marquette University; B.A, University of Notre Dame; J.D., Yale Law
School.
1. Support paid by one ex-spouse to the other ex-spouse may be referred to as spousal support,
spousal maintenance, maintenance, or alimony. I use the traditional-and shorter-term alimony
throughout this article.
2. Camille Grammer Could Get $50 Million in Divorce, THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, Jan. 1,
2011, at A2.
3. Id.

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