March 2008 Archives

March 12, 2008

Is Alimony on Its Way Out?

Recent lawsuits and proposed new legislation are challenging traditional ways of calculating and awarding alimony -- not just whether it's awarded, but also how much will be paid and for how long.

The National Law Journal recently reported on proposed laws that would put limits on how long alimony can be paid (in Massachusetts) and give judges specific rules for determining alimony amounts and duration, limiting the judges' discretion (in Nevada and New York). In Florida, a proposed ballot initiative would require a vote on a constitutional amendment to abolish lifetime alimony awards. The Massachusetts law would cap the duration of alimony at 12 years or half the length of the marriage, whichever is shorter.

One factor in the alimony wars is the increase in the number of women paying alimony to men, which one lawyer called "a huge area of litigation."

Regardless of who's paying, alimony has always been -- and will no doubt continue to be -- a contentious issue in divorce. But for as long as it's existed, alimony has been an important source of support for women transitioning back into the work force after years of taking care of a home, kids, and their husband's careers. To the extent that families still function that way, alimony still has its place -- especially in long-term marriages with a large disparity in earning power between the partners. At the same time, family structures have changed and apparently, alimony is following suit.

March 5, 2008

California Supreme Court Considers Same-Sex Marriage

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While the nation was focused on the big presidential primaries on March 4, California was also court-watching, as the California Supreme Court heard arguments in lawsuits seeking an end to discriminatory marriage laws in the Golden State.

Lawyers for the parties seeking marriage equality argued that it's unconstitutional to keep gays and lesbians from marrying a same-sex partner, while the opposing side countered that tradition and public opinion support continuing the current ban on same-sex marriage. The justices were very active in questioning both sides, and it's hard to tell what they're thinking, but to me it appeared that some of them, at least, were leaning toward ruling in favor of marriage equality for all California citizens. Their pointed inquiry into how same-sex marriage "undermines" heterosexual marriage certainly exposed the weakness in that particular bit of bigotry, and they also appeared to reject the notion that children always thrive when raised by biological parents of the opposite sex. (In fact, studies show that children of lesbians and gay men do just as well as kids with opposite-sex parents.)

We'll find out within 90 days what the justices are thinking -- that's the time limit for the court to rule. Lots more about the arguments and the issues in the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and New York Times. And if you're up for nearly four hours of court-watching, you can see the argument on the California Channel's site under the link for "What's New." Finally, there's an interesting summary of the argument session at Leonard Link.