Women, Wives, Mothers …and Harrison Butker


By Heather Sanders Broxterman
BAM Family Law

In his recent, controversial commencement address at Benedictine College, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker opined, among other things, that women should “lean in” to their vocations as wives, mothers and women.

While the exhortation for women to lean in to these roles is not particularly controversial, what becomes problematic is romanticization of leaning into motherhood and wifehood as an alternative to careers and financial independence. Ultimately, not everyone necessarily understands all the consequences of such a decision, including the legal consequences.

Family law courts are not set up to keep stay-at-home parents financially secure. By and large, divorce courts expect stay-at-home parents to have found a full-time job by the time they get to divorce court. Even when you may have devoted your life to raising children, the courts often expect that you will be gainfully employed with a long-term career plan within a short period of time. Often, spouses who originally supported their partner’s vocation as a stay-at-home spouse/parent are no longer willing to do so when the romantic relationship fails.

Lifetime maintenance/alimony is extremely uncommon these days. Maintenance can be limited, often with an operative cap at higher income levels. The duration of any maintenance award is frequently limited to the number of months equivalent to between one third to half the length of the marriage (for example, one year of maintenance for a three-year marriage or five years of maintenance for a ten-year marriage).

The amount of maintenance/alimony is often limited as well; guideline maintenance calculations in Colorado begin at only 40% of the income of the higher-earning spouse minus 50% of the earning (or earning capacity) of the other spouse. And in some states (not Colorado), spouses who have committed infidelity are ineligible for maintenance/alimony, even in cases of mutual infidelity.

Courts often use the 50/50 parenting time model as a default, even when one parent has historically been the primary parent, so divorcing stay-at-home parents often find themselves lost and bewildered when their children start spending half their time in the other parent’s home.

And while it might be fine if your significant other makes as much money as, say, Harrison Butker, for everyone else it’s a really good idea to read, or re-read, your pre-nuptial agreements.

The bottom line is this: Have you and your significant other had the conversation about what it is worth to take on the role of stay-at-home spouse? Does the default in the divorce law line up with your expectations and your values? Because if not, maybe you need a different type of pre-nuptial agreement.

In his speech, Butker talked a lot about his faith and his religious beliefs, concluding ultimately that “Our Catholic faith has always been countercultural.”

It is important to embrace culture, including counterculture. It is important to make room for freedom of expression. But it is unrealistic to expect a countercultural arrangement to be upheld and supported by a mainstream legal system.

In order to protect yourself, you need to affirmatively have that conversation. You need to make a disaster plan. We all deserve to make these kinds of choices in our lives. We also deserve to know all the potential legal and financial consequences of such choices.

– Heather Sanders Broxterman is a co-founder of BAM Family Law in Denver. Contact her at [email protected] or at 303-331-6432.

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