The trend away from alimony, changing with the times

In years past, when women rarely worked outside the home, awarding permanent alimony in a divorce was typical. In the modern era, however, the national trend continues to move away from the standardized payment plan. This could lead to more equally distributed division of marital property.

Many divorces across the country do still involve alimony, but it tends to be for a set period of time. Maryland recognizes the right to alimony in certain situations, including what is called rehabilitative alimony, which is intended to help the previously stay-at-home spouse re-trained and placed back into the workforce. The alimony would help support the person during that transitional period.

Earlier this year, Massachusetts adopted limits on alimony, and New Jersey legislators are considering making their own changes to current law. Florida lawmakers are mulling over a bill that would end permanent alimony in that state.

The proposed Florida legislation follows a new law that mostly limits permanent alimony to longer marriages that ended in divorce. Proponents of the bill say permanent alimony is unnecessary today, now that the majority of married couples both work. The Florida bill would base the duration of the alimony on the corresponding length of the marriage. For example, 15 years of marriage would allow 15 years of payments. The payment amount would be capped at a certain percentage of a payer’s monthly net income. Alimony payments would cease when the payer retired. Proponents of the legislation are urging lawmakers to allow paying partners to go to court to amend their divorce settlements should the law pass.

Critics, however, are worried that a change in the law could leave women who are still homemakers out in the cold.

Source: Sun Sentinel, “Bill: Permanent alimony would become thing of past,” Donna Gehrke-White, Dec. 7, 2011