The contribution standard entitles spouses to support because of the contributions they have made to the marriage. Contributions to the marriage may be through income, time, domestic labor, childcare, and elder care. Reimbursement for contributions also justifies spousal maintenance awards to a spouse who has contributed to the other spouse’s education or advancement. A problem with the contribution standard is that it fails to account for expectations (Rutheford, 1990) that spouses are entitled to share in the long-term marital rewards.
Spouses may choose to make career sacrifices in order to contribute domestic services. At divorce, spouses who provided the money income are often given more compensation than those who provided domestic services (in kind income) because wage earners are perceived to have contributed more to the family (Rutheford, 1990). Therefore, the person who contributed the larger portion of money income may be entitled to keep it as his or her own.
Because husbands traditionally earn more money, and homemakers contribute time, labor, and skills that have economic value, but are unpaid, husbands appear to contribute more because the dollar value of their contribution can be calculated more easily. Those who contribute unpaid services may not receive fair compensation for their contributions. The compensation for losses standard. The compensation for losses category justifies support because a spouse is entitled to compensation (DiFonzo, 2001) for losses they have incurred as a result of divorce (Rutheford, 1990), such as economic opportunities lost by marital partners (Shehan, et. al. , 2008).
Economic losses may be incurred when one spouses forgoes labor market employment in order to provide domestic services, or when one spouse contributes to the education of the other. Compensation labels used to provide a spousal maintenance award are restitution and compensatory awards. Restitution and compensatory awards are basically the same, but have different names used by different authors. Restitution is used to justify spousal maintenance awards when one partner has lost career opportunities because of providing domestic roles (Dnes, 1998).
A compensatory award (Spillane, 1998) would be determined if a spouse suffered a loss in earning capacity by remaining unemployed or underemployed in order to provide domestic services to the marital relationship. A compensatory award could also be awarded if one spouse suffered a loss due to providing for the education of the other (Spillane, 1998). The most current suggestion for awarding spousal maintenance is compensation for losses rather than meeting needs (American Law Institute, 2002).
Spouses will automatically incur losses when dividing the household into two. According to the American Law Institute, it is necessary to allocate the losses so that that each partner equitably shares the burden. However, not all losses are measurable or deserve compensation. The focus on loss may promote a narrow definition of entitlement by not incorporating contributions as well as losses (Bryan, 2007). Bryan suggested that overlooking contributions is problematic because it disregards research that indicates that women do at least twice as much housework as men.
Bryan suggested that a stronger justification than loss, one that includes contributions, might establish more favorable outcomes for dependent spouses. Another problem with compensation for losses is that the justification for entitlement is not based on marriage as a partnership, where spouses are equal stakeholders (Starnes, 2001). As Starnes explained, a partner’s entitlement is based on loss, as opposed to their right to income as an equal stakeholder in the marriage, which perpetuates a “victim” model that a spouse needs to be taken care of because of the loss they have suffered.
The different justifications for support inform the different strategies suggested for allocating income. Each theory or justification for awarding spousal maintenance is based on different meanings of fairness. Divorcing decisions require balancing and prioritizing the principles of fairness. Often, scholars disagree on the meaning of fairness. Therefore, controversies exist, and establishing a theory for more equitable outcomes remains at a standstill.