Many States Consider Reforming or Adjusting Alimony Laws

Many spouses may suffer financially as a result of a divorce. In such cases, an award of alimony may be appropriate to provide them with steady income to help them find employment or maintain their current standard of living.

There is currently a debate in New Jersey regarding alimony laws and their possible reform. Twelve states have already established guidelines for alimony awards and others are considering similar legislation. Advocates for reforming the laws feel that they are sexist and biased against men, traditionally awarding alimony to women. Additionally, they feel they are based on concepts that no longer exist and place an undue burden on paying spouses. The are seeking to end permanent alimony awards, as well as applying strict guidelines and a formula to determine the amount and duration of awards. Opponents of the reform feel that the current laws encompass all necessary considerations and that any reforms would diminish a judge's discretion in determining an award as well as applying blanket rules to decisions that should be made on a case-by-case basis.

The awarding of alimony is an allowance from one spouse's assets for the support of the other in cases of divorce. The intent is to minimize any negative economic effects of a divorce to a low or non-earning spouse. Alimony can either be rehabilitative or permanent. Rehabilitative alimony is paid for as long as necessary for the receiving spouse to acquire necessary education or training to find suitable employment and become self-supporting. Permanent alimony, however, is paid until the receiving spouse remarries or when one of the spouses dies, although alimony can still be paid from a paying spouses estate. The factors included in determining alimony are time required for receiving spouse to receive education to obtain employment, duration of marriage, standard of living while married and financial resources and earning capacity of each spouse, among others. The debate above revolves around permanent alimony and whether it should ever be used due to the burden it places on the paying spouse in certain cases. Many states are considering reforms to their alimony laws.

Alimony may be necessary in certain cases and can be an effective way to provide a low or non-earning spouse with continuous income. It is important that both spouses are aware of their rights and responsibilities regarding alimony when considering a divorce.

Source: Asbury Park Press, "Alimony troubles: Two sides escalate battle in NJ", Dustin Racioppi, Feb. 22, 2013

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