Is This the End of Alimony?

Cheryl Lock

divorceAs a person whose parents split up when I was seven, I’m no stranger to divorce lingo. Child support. Full and part-time custody. Alimony. By third grade, I had all of the vocab down.

But lately, alimony as we know it has been called into question.

In its simplest terms, alimony is “a husband’s or wife’s court-ordered provision for a spouse after separation or divorce.”

The intent is to provide the spouse with low income, or no income, funds for living expenses outside of child support—in other words money to support themselves. The amount and duration of the payments depend on the laws of individual states, and are at the discretion of a judge.

But now, it turns out, many states are considering new legislation that would put an end to permanent spousal support.

The New Alimony?

Now, instead of alimony for life, several states are contemplating special formulas that would be used to determine a specified amount and length of alimony payments. Massachusetts reformed their law a year ago. Florida’s reform bill was recently vetoed by the governor. New Jersey is contemplating changes, and, just recently, legislation seeking changes was introduced in New York.

Proponents of the laws say it’s only fair that alimony be paid out over a specific amount of time, rather than for the duration of someone’s entire life. The other side argues these changes would hurt women who, in many circumstances, gave up their full-time careers or opportunities for further schooling to become homemakers or to care for children, and who may find it increasingly difficult to find good jobs in this economy.

If the arguments are not surprising, what is surprising is the increasing number of women who are calling for alimony changes. Sheila Taylor is one of them.

RELATED: Why Are Women Financially Better Off After Divorce?

The Case for Changing the System

When Taylor, a nurse in Ocean Grove, N.J., managed to divorce her abusive, cheating, alcoholic husband of 25 years, she thought she was free and clear.

The courts, however, felt differently. Because Taylor’s $70,000 nurse’s salary was higher than what her husband had been making, she was ordered to pay him permanent alimony, to the tune of $1,250 every month … as long as he never remarried. It didn’t matter that Taylor’s husband had left her for another woman, or that the two of them were living together, or even that they were engaged. (And her ex-husband was vocal about the fact that he never planned to actually remarry, that way he could continue to collect his alimony payments.)

RELATED: Getting Divorced? Don’t Ask Friends and Family for Financial Advice

  • Cynthia

    I think that the circumstances need to be looked at carefully. In the above scenario, the ex-husband has no need for alimony. He is not raising any children nor did he give up his career to stay at home. The ruling was completely unfair.

    • lisbell

      Agree! Why would a judge favor that? Doesn’t make sense. I dont think an alimony is necessary unless children are involved….Seriously, adults can work and provide for did they survive before the marriage? If you come with scraps then you leave with scraps….etc.

      • Melissa Lee Pappas

        As for someone who has sat in many, many hours in court for divorce related matters I can assure that it is rarely fair. The suggested guidelines that the judges are given is that the higher earning spouse has determined and provided a standard of living and that the lesser earning spouse should be able to maintain a similar lifestyle as during the marriage. This is ludicrous because divorce is a change and therefor the lifestyle must change. How can it be possible to maintain two households in the same standard when finances were only maintaining one for the duration of the marriage? The answer is it can not and this is why there needs to be change. There are two bills pending for alimony reform and hopefully one will pass. Contact your law makers, tell them this is unfair and we need a change now. Visit if you want to read more horro stories or learn what you can do to help.

      • JosephBleau

        Child support and alimony (now called “spousal support” in many places to avoid the term) are two different things. Also, many times the amount of child support ordered far exceeds the cost of raising the child, so it becomes a second source of alimony.

  • Lynn Emenheiser

    My boyfriend is in SSD, he has to shell out 300 dollars a month to the mother that eventually abandoned her sons. She was engaged and we hoped, and hoped but the man died. I didnt even think it was LEGAL to take alimony from SSD!

  • Doodles

    A couple of thoughts… Maybe “no fault” divorce wasn’t such a great idea. This woman clearly had good reason to divorce her husband. The failure of the marriage was his fault. That’s why it’s so outrageous that she has to pay alimony. If he had been a struggling low earner without other problems it wouldn’t be so shocking.

    I also don’t see why alimony shouldn’t be life-long. The marriage was meant to be life-long, and that is the reason why a person who had taken on an obligation to provide for life would be left with some reduced life-long obligation in case of divorce. Not everyone is self-sufficient or able to find a job, especially right now. The new approach obviously reflects major changes in thinking about whether people can make life-long commitments or whether each and every adult must be expected to be self-sufficient…

    • Melissa Lee Pappas

      Doodles, It is wrong and men have been screaming this for years. As the workforce changes and we women can be the higher earner you will see more women paying for the rest of their lives for marrying the wrong man.

      If you are married for 10 years or more that lifetime alimony may be a reality.

      Here is a scenario for you to ponder: You get married at 25. Your spouse turns out to be a drunk or uses drugs or destroys your finances or abuses you physically or verbally or some combination of any of these. You work because you can not rely on your spouse to provide steady income so you become the bread winner. After 10 years you have had it with their nonsense and you file for divorce. The judge only looks at the last 3 years of finances and sees you made all the money and so this judge decides that you must pay your ex for the rest of your life. So at 35 years after a marriage that was only 10 years you are obligated to pay that waste of air ex-spouse for the rest of your life. At 35 you could live till 75 or more so that means you will pay another 40+ years for a 10 year mistake. They will tell you when you retire that you can petition the court for a reduction in alimony, but in reality that almost never happens. So you have no change of retiring, no chance of ever breaking ties with your ex and you will work until the day you die so your ex can sit on their lazy behind an collect your hard earned cash.

      • LOL

        That’s how it’s been for years for men. Funny how women only get in a fuss when suddenly, they are being affected by it. They’re happy to sit on their fat, lazy asses and take, take, take, but when it happens to them, BY GOD, IT’S NOT FAIR. LOL. Pathetic.

  • MEH

    So basically you cannot afford to completely
    check out of your career in favor of marriage and family. No one ever goes into
    a marriage thinking one day they’ll get a divorce but reality is what it is.
    Start your own business, work part time, volunteer, continue your education whatever
    you need to do to keep at least one foot in the door.

  • J Malloy

    I too got screwed with alimony payments to my ex-husband. In a nutshell, he filed for divorce knowing that I would have to split my assets and pay him alimony. The judge ruled that he was entitled to alimony because it was a family choice that he didn’t work for the better part of 9 years. I didn’t matter if he chose not to look for a job (I firmly believe it you want a job there is a job for you), we chose to keep both kids in daycare so that he could look for a job, and he didn’t look for a job. He even tried to pull the “primary caregiver” card although both kids were in daycare all day, everyday.

    Although I highly disagree with the judge and can’t believe my ex-husband didn’t waive support, I try to remember it is a small price to pay for my happiness.

  • Wondering Why

    Well here is a scenerio that I want you to ponder and understand happens to retired soldiers all the time and why this permanant alimony needs to be changed. A spouse of a soldier can cheat and say she don’t want to be with anymore after over twenty years of marriage, have a job for over twenty years herself, a 401k and other investments. Go to court in Georgia and they immediately award her half of the soldiers retirement for the rest of her life even though she has a career, over twenty years on her job, has not been stopped from progressing and have no children living with them. How fair is this that a retired soldiers their retirement can be handed out like candy because she was with him for over twenty years only till the kids were grown. I believe she deserve something but not half and not for the rest of her life. Five to eight years should help her get on her feet and work to get herself together.

  • Erin Foster Palagye

    Please sign my petition to end alimony for life

  • Johnny Chan

    I think it’s great that women get to experience the way men have been taken advantage of for years you want gender equality? woman up men have died from the injustice of the family and divorce court systems from alimony and childsupport all i can say is you wanted gender equality you got it now shut your mouth and suck it up you can’t say you want gender equality then say oh no the laws arent fair when they are what men have been living with from the start are you a woman who has to pay child support? miss a few payments and see where you end up karma is truly a bitch

  • Hard working spouse

    The current Nj law or even the one before Christie is oppressive and makes slaves out if the payor spouse. I am a woman who begged and begged my spouse to consider working. He stopped working a few years ago and would not even consider any kind of employment so I had to keep working. Should the hard working spouse be punished while the deadbeat spouse gets alimony? It gives him no incentive to work but enables him more. And I would be a slave for as long as the alimony continues, not being able to be free mentally, emotionally, financially. There should be no expectation to maintain prior lifestyle; that is erroneous. During a marriage itself, circumstances can change, that is life and people adjust so why in a divorce only one person had the right to maintain previous lifestyle but the payor spouse becomes a slave. The NJ reform law doesn’t do enough unlike the Florida reform. Why even have alimony the same length as marriage when NY limits it to half the length. Nj lawmakers haven’t done enough, they have given a half-hearted attempt just like they do with the ridiculous property tax laws.