The number of wives who out-earn their husbands is steadily increasing. According to CNN, enrollment at U.S. colleges is now 60-40 female, which likely means that the number of high-earning women will continue to grow. And studies show that a woman's professional success, such as a promotion, drastically increases the chances of her marriage ending in divorce.
Regardless of spousal roles, the rules about alimony and child support apply equally to women just as they do to men. However, in many divorces involving professionally successful women, the dynamic was not necessarily a 180° flip of a traditional home where one spouse worked and the other took care of the house and kids. Instead, in addition to their work outside the home, these women also managed getting the children to school, the house cleaned and dinner made, assuming the lion's share of domestic responsibilities. In those cases, there is often a sense of frustration when the marriage dissolves and the female spouse breadwinner is faced with the prospect of paying financial support after carrying the load at work and at home.
After this was originally written, the New York Times published an article titled, "The Paradox of of Alimony for Men," covering many of the issues raised here.
Divorce and family law cases all involve the concept of "equity," meaning fairness. This means that family law judges can hear all kinds of information to give them context before they rule, even for mathematical calculations such as spousal and child support. A stay-at-home dad may not have an advantage in a custody claim simply because the mom worked, depending on the circumstances. For women who find themselves in a bad marriage, the critical decisions are deciding to act and making a plan. Remaining in a bad situation simply because of potential financial exposure almost always makes the situation worse instead of better. By consulting with a qualified attorney and a financial advisor, a high-earner can gather the information necessary to make reasonable settlement offers and plan for an exit while mitigating the circumstances.