Mar 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.


It is pathetic to hear that in the 21st century men and woman are ordered to pay LIFETIME alimony. As any alimony payor would agree, and I am one of them, when an ex-spouse is in need of alimony is it warranted for her or him to receive it - BUT FOR A LIMITED AND FOR SPECIFIC FINITE PERIOD OF TIME. Current family laws in many states such as in my home state, the Great State of Florida, allow for ex-spouses to ask the court to be granted LIFETIME alimony. It would be save to assume that none of us thought of it in this way when we said “until death due us apart”. The issue here has to do with what is just and unjust, fair and unfair, and most importantly constitutional and unconstitutional. I believe that the way the current laws in Florida, in particular Florida Statute 61.08, are written are unconstitutional. First, it invades the right privacy of the citizens; second, it infringes the separation of powers because the laws are so vaguely written that it gives the judiciary power to legislate from the bench; and third, it forces involuntary lifetime servitude on an ex-spouse (commonly know as slavery) under the threat of incarceration. The only way to change this is to change the law to limit all alimony awards to a limit of THREE years, such as in Texas and Indiana.