Last week Halle Berry’s long running bad luck in relationships hit a new high when a judge in California ruled on her child custody dispute with former boyfriend Gabriel Aubrey. The judge ruled that Berry had to pay her baby-daddy a whopping 20,000 a month in child support, even though she has primary custody of their 4 year old daughter Nahla. While I’m sure that Kevin Federline sent Aubrey an air fist-bump for his legal victory others are calling Halle’s payment outrageous, sexist and yes, even racist.
The reality is, that the settlement is all of these things, however, in the grand scheme of things Halle has just been caught up in the separation-recession, which has been changing the way courts and society deal with separating couples.
In a report released in May the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that the number of women being ordered to pay child support and almimony to their former spouses has risen dramatically in the last few years, especially during this recession.
Overall, 56% of the nation’s top divorce attorneys say that they have seen an increase in the number of mothers paying child support during the past three years, while 47% also note a rise in women being responsible for alimony throughout the same time period, according to a recent survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML).
This is a particulary interesting change given that women are suffering as bad if not worse than men for much of this recession. While the economy has limped back to some semblance of life, women still suffer from pay and hiring discrimination at the same rates they have since the 1970’sWhat’s worse, is that women are twice as likely as men to have public sector jobs, teachers, nurses, the DMV, and consequently have had a harder time getting back to work across the nation as Republican led legislatures obsesses over cutting spending at every turn. So if women aren’t doing much better than men financially overall, why are we seeing an increase in the number of women saddled with payouts al-la Ms. Monster’s Ball? In a stereotype defying change this is a result of men fighting harder for parental rights.
According to the 2010 census there has been a 27% increase in single male headed households since 2000 and that number has been on a steady increase since the early 1980’s. There was a time when no self-respecting man would dare ask for custody of his children if he was not the primary bread winner in a family, let alone if he was unemployed or underemployed. But with employment scarce and job prospects unclear for men across the country many are fighting for whatever scaps of normalcy they can get, and if that includes being primary custodians of their children and getting some extra-money from the kid’s mother to do it, so be it.
Now, we don’t know exactly why a judge threw the checkbook at Halle Berry so heavily in her custody battle.Personally I do think the ruling merits the racial ‘smell test’ ie: I have trouble imagining a famous white actress having to pay her black baby daddy a quarter of a million a year for 14 years but we’ll see (clock is ticking Ellen Pompeo!)
However, the fact remains that fair or not, this is one instance where the recession and economic downturn seem to have impacted even those top 1% types that we all read about in the check out aisle. What’s next? Angelina Jolie having to car pool to save on gas?