Alimonyis the temporary or permanent financial support paid to one spouse from the other, either in one lump sum or installments. Alimony is also known as maintenance or spousal support. Even though state and federal constitutions have equal protection clauses that say we are all equal in the eyes of the law, men pay alimony in nearly every case.
By Tara N. Brewer
During divorce proceedings, it's quite difficult to divide assets without the accurate amount. Some troubled couples tend to hide money from each other to avoid sharing it in divorce.
If one person solely handles the household's financial affairs, it’s easier to hide assets. According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, 31% of U.S. adults who combined assets with a spouse or partner admit to being deceptive about money.
However, as the Wall Street Journal reports, hiding assets from your spouse has become increasingly difficult due to the proliferation of electronic discovery research.
With men representing 97% of alimony payors, alimony reform has become a key mens rights issue.
States such as Massachusetts have already enacted sweeping alimony reform, while others, including New Jersey, are in the preliminary stages of updated archaic alimony laws.
Republican Assemblyman Sean Kean is one of the driving forces behind alimony reform in New Jersey. His resolution calling for the creation of a similar commission to study the state's alimony laws has gained momentum, according to the New York Times.
Assemblyman Kean talked to MensRights.com editor Matt Allen about New Jersey alimony reform and why protecting mens rights is so desperately needed.
The Florida alimony reform movement is gaining national attention. News anchor Anderson Cooper's daytime talk show "Anderson" will highlight alimony problems facing men in Florida and across the country in an upcoming episode.
Florida's leading reform group, Florida Alimony Reform, says with no guidelines in the current Florida alimony laws, awards often last until death, and payments can be more than 70 percent of a payer's income. Permanent alimony is often awarded to alcoholics, criminals, and to women who commit adultery and leave their husbands.
Alan Frisher, a divorce financial analyst and co-director of Florida Alimony Reform, told a Florida TV station that the state's antiquated alimony laws are "causing people to go into bankruptcy, to fight a system where the only solution is to either pay or be incarcerated."
With the recent filing of two proposed bills, Florida politicians are spearheading efforts to move alimony reform forward within a state widely believed to be among the worst toward men when it comes to awarding spousal support.
Rep. Ritch Workman and Sen. Diaz de la Portilla have filed identical bills in the House and Senate, respectively, and will work to convince legislators that the state’s alimony laws are badly broken and need to be brought into the 21st century.
According to Florida Alimony Reform, the bills include provisions that will:
Could alimony reform be on its way to West Virginia?
Following advantageous changes to alimony laws in favor of men's rights in several states, such as Massachusetts and Tennessee, West Virginia will now consider adopting guidelines similar to child support for awarding spousal support.
West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret Workman said currently alimony awards are inconsistent and unpredictable since there is no framework for amount or duration.
Men's rights was delivered a victory by the Tennessee Supreme Court in a case that could determine the future of how alimony is awarded in that state.
In a unanimous decision, the state's highest court ruled the award of lifetime alimony and attorney fees to a man's ex-wife were inappropriate because the wife was healthy, held a stable well-paying job and received considerable assets through the division of marital property.
This alimony case involved a wife, Johanna Gonsewski, who claimed she deserved $15,000 a year in alimony despite the fact she earns $72,000 a year.
Supporters are hoping the recently approved changes to Massachusetts' "archaic" alimony laws will trigger successful alimony reforms in other states.
One of the driving forces behind alimony reform is Elizabeth Benedict, a journalist and novelist whose op-ed piece in the Boston Globe in 2008 helped the Massachusetts alimony reform movement gain momentum.
Current alimony laws are written to be gender neutral, but the fact that 97% of alimony payers are men prove the reality is anything but gender neutral, according to Benedict.
She spoke with MensRights.com editor Matt Allen about the forthcoming changes to Massachusetts alimony laws and what other states need to adopt alimony reforms.
The last couple months have featured a variety of states proposing, adopting or rejecting numerous men’s rights bills that primarily addressed outdated alimony and child custody laws.
Some states are clearly moving in the right direction toward promoting father’s rights (Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee) while others have stalled (Alabama).
Thanks to our partners at CordellCordell.com, here is a snapshot of the status of some of the more important bills from around the country.
If you know of new legislation that is not mentioned, please let us know by leaving a comment at the end of the article. (You can also read our summaries about the status of shared parenting bills.)
A long-awaited alimony reform bill filed with the Massachusetts Legislature has won the approval of the Massachusetts Bar Association (MBA).
The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 would bring time limits on alimony orders and enact fair and equitable alimony in the state, according to the MBA.
Massachusetts’ current alimony law does not have a limit on the duration of an alimony award, does not clearly address the issue of alimony payments upon retirement, and does not address cohabitation, among other shortcomings.
Fathers & Families is a national organization committed to family court reform at the political level. The group’s wide-ranging and ambitious legislative agenda for 2011 is aimed at providing more men’s and father’s rights in family law cases.
One bill that is being introduced in the California legislature would give the courts statutory power to enforce visitation orders, something that should have been done decades ago.