Divorce Alimony Reform: A Necessary Evil?

By Minara El-Rahman on November 04, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

More and more baby boomers are facing a whole new problem during the economic downturn: ex spouses from the past asking for alimony payments or asking for an increase in alimony.

A lot of people are questioning the fairness of this system.

The Wall Street Journal  reports: "Now, the idea that a husband should continue to support his wife forever, even after the demise of their marriage--long a bedrock of divorce law--is being called into question. Pressures are mounting to change a practice that some see as outdated and unfair."

However, husbands are not the only ones who can be on the hook for alimony. Sometimes if the wife is making more than her husband at the time of divorce, she can be required to pay him alimony.

The Wall Street Journal writes: "Men accounted for 97% of alimony-payers last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, although the share of women supporting ex-husbands is on the rise."

Basically the gist of the alimony debate is whether these payments are transitional are permanent.

If it is considered transitional, then the payments should be made until the more dependent spouse can back on his/her feet financially.

If alimony is considered to be a permanent fixture, then the payments are considered part and parcel for the sacrifices that the dependent spouse made during the marriage.

According to the Wall Street Journal : "State alimony laws, many passed in the 1960s and 1970s, were designed to help nonworking or lesser-earning spouses after divorce.

Many states allow for recipients to receive payments for life.

Proponents say the money compensates some spouses who have sacrificed careers for families and is particularly vital to low- and middle-income women.

Detractors have long called the laws unfair in an age when many women work, with people making payments for years that their former spouses don't really need."

It seems that certain states have been listening to these complaints. Here is a rundown of alimony laws that are in the pipelines in certain states courtesy of WSJ research:

Massachusetts House Bill 1785: Alimony typically one-half the length of the marriage and no longer than 12 years, except when the supported party has minor children.

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 953: Alimony can be terminated if the recipient cohabitates with another adult in a romantic relationship.

Oklahoma House Bill 1053: Makes it harder for one spouse to tap another's military retirement pay in a divorce settlement. Currently, military retirement pay is divided like marital property. Under the bill, the portion of military retirement pay an ex-spouse would be entitled to would end if that spouse remarries, making it similar to alimony.

Ohio State Bar Association proposal: Alimony would be temporary for a marriage of 25 years or less, with a suggestion of alimony lasting no longer than seven years for a marriage of 15 years.

Even if your state is not listed, each divorce case is different. Even if your divorce was finalized and happened decades ago, it is not written in stone. For example, Massachusetts law allows probate judges to reassess divorce agreements that are decades old and issue orders for alimony if it means preventing an ex spouse from being on the public roll.

If you are in the process of getting divorced, are divorced or even thinking about, it is important to get all the facts about alimony in your state.

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