By: Hannah Werner
Earlier this year, a judge in Spain awarded over $200,000 to a woman that completed all the housework in her 25 year marriage. The court ordered Ivana Moral’s ex-husband to pay her $528 per month, a sum calculated by reviewing the minimum monthly professional wage kept by housekeepers at that time. Moral argued that she raised the couple’s two daughters, took care of her husband, and the home throughout their marriage. The ex-wife then argued that this work did not leave time for her career, thus she was entitled to payment for her services. Ultimately, the court agreed and the judge awarded Moral $215,000 for the housework. This judgment brings up a vital question: should a spouse, who completes all of the housework for the marital home alone and without assistance and subsequently divorces their spouse, be entitled to compensation for the value of the contribution?
This Spanish decision is similar to those in other foreign countries; in 2019, a court in Argentina ordered a man to pay his ex-wife $173,000 for housework she completed in their 27 year marriage. Similarly, a court in Portugal in 2021 ordered a man to pay his ex-wife $72,000 as compensation for work she completed during their 30 year marriage. This invokes the issue of whether the United States should recognize the growing proposition that spouses who do the majority of domestic labor during their marriage should be compensated for those activities when the marriage terminates.
By ordering spouses to pay their former spouses for work completed during their marriage, it may fuel couples to keep track of who completes more housework and cleaning. The United States court system has displayed an interest in keeping family’s cohesive and not promoting fights amongst couples. If it altered precedent to include payments for housework, it could lead to further fights on which spouse completes more work for the family.
By contrast, implementing a new rule regarding housework and cleaning in United States households could encourage couples to split the work more equitably or evenly. This could also allow spouses that usually complete the housework to start (or restart) a career with the additional time they have that is not dedicated to the home. In the past, the United States has innately emphasized that women’s place in society is in the home, but by encouraging equal partnership regarding housework, courts can prove that this is not the job of just one spouse.
As the country is ever evolving, it is important that the law progress with the times. Traditionally, it has been women who have been tasked with handling the housework while men pursue a career. As more and more women are finding their way into the workplace, and, as more and more glass ceilings are being shattered, it suggests it is time for courts to back this proposition by establishing a new precedent of paying women for the housework they complete during their marriage.
About the Author:
In May of 2020, Hannah graduated with a B.A. in Public Relations and a B.A. in Psychology from Auburn University. Hannah will graduate from Chicago-Kent College of Law in May 2024. Hannah is active in the Society of Women in Law. After graduation, she looks forward to working in estate planning and business administration at a law firm in the Chicago suburbs.