In California, families may have a wide range of financial arrangements. Some couples may have a primary earner and a stay-at-home parent; in other cases, both partners work at a job outside the home. Despite the advances made over the years in terms of women’s achievement in the workplace, many people still expect that in a marriage, the husband will be the higher earner of the pair. These kinds of social expectations can have damaging effects: One study indicates that couples in which the wife earns more than the husband are one-third more likely to divorce.

Of course, there are a number of factors that can lead to the end of a marriage, and this may be less of a negative figure than it suggests. Women in unhappy or even abusive relationships may be more likely to divorce if they are financially independent. The likelihood of divorce may also be linked to the reasons for a financial disparity; in some cases, the lower-earning husband may be long-term unemployed rather than working hard for lower pay or serving as a stay-at-home parent.

Some challenges are faced by any relationship with a financial disparity, which is one reason why statistics indicate that couples with relatively equal income are the least likely to divorce. The higher earner may be controlling about family finances and exclude the other partner from decision-making, leading to resentment and an unequal relationship. On the other hand, lower-earning men may feel emasculated if they receive negative social messages from their own family or friends about their income.

In any case, divorce can lead to significant financial changes that affect both partners for years to come. A family law attorney may represent a divorcing spouse throughout negotiations, working toward a fair settlement on issues including property division and spousal support.