One of the many decisions to be made in a divorce settlement is alimony. Traditionally, it’s been the man who makes payments to his ex-wife, who for generations made less money than her husband, if she worked out of the home at all. These days, spousal support is legally non-gender-specific because many women do earn more than their husbands. But even now, alimony is much more often awarded to an ex-wife.
Although the state of Texas doesn’t have a simple formula for determining how much alimony one spouse is obligated to pay the other, many states have policies that are considered so outdated and unfair that they’re undergoing significant reform. Massachusetts recently passed the Alimony Reform Act, and Florida and New Jersey are poised to adopt similar overhauls. Many of the changes have to do with the fact that some exes are paying too much for too long considering the length of the marriage and the incomes of both spouses.
One piece of legislation being considered in Florida is the termination of alimony payments when the paying spouse reaches retirement age. That would mean that if an older couple of today were to divorce near or after retirement, the wife, if she didn’t have many years in the workforce (which would also lower her Social Security payments), could receive very little or no support from her ex-husband. Another reform issue to watch is whether new spousal support modifications will be allowed for couples who divorced before the law changed. This could pose an unfair advantage for spouses who can’t modify other terms of the divorce in exchange.
Some say that alimony should be abolished completely, since large disparities in income are less common among today’s couples. Fewer women are staying out of the workforce for decades at a time to raise children, after all. But the fact remains that when two people divorce, their lifestyles change. Many people once dependent on a spouse’s significant income simply can’t survive on their own, whether they are men or women.
What do you think? Is alimony an antiquated concept, or a necessary outcome when two people with radically different incomes go their separate ways?
Source: Forbes, “Alimony Reforms Continue to Create More Uncertainty for Divorcing Women,” Jeff Landers, Jan. 18, 2012