Alimony reform movement growing

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Divorce on Thursday, January 26, 2012

The attempt to reform spousal support is growing around the nation. Spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, is often a contentious, emotional issue in divorce.

A media outlet that recently reported on the reform effort noted that lawmakers are proposing legislation to overhaul alimony in several states, though Missouri is not among them.

People contemplating divorce here should know that spousal maintenance isn’t automatic in Missouri. The person asking for support must prove to the court that they’re unable to support themselves and that they lack the financial resources to provide for their needs.

A St. Louis court, for instance, will consider the financial resources that are available, as well as employment prospects, education level, the standard of living in the marriage, and a number of other factors.

However, in some states, alimony reformers say spousal maintenance laws are decades old, written when divorce was rare and it was unusual for women to hold jobs outside of the home.

Today, the percentage of women in the workforce is 59 percent, up from 51 percent in 1979.

Their inflation-adjusted median income has grown since then, too, says the Labor Department: Up to approximately $35,000 per year today, from $26,500 in 1979.

Reform advocates say the laws should reflect these changes, rather than using assumptions that women don’t have careers, can’t land good jobs and won’t be paid much if they are employed.

The advocates want to end lifetime alimony and make court-ordered spousal maintenance of shorter duration and smaller amounts, whether it goes from the man to the woman or vice versa.

Two years ago, Florida passed a law limiting spousal support payments for short-lived marriages.

A New Jersey lawmaker says she’s studying alimony law as she prepares to introduce legislation aimed at reform.

Last year, Massachusetts overhauled its alimony structure, basing payments on lengths of marriages and the finances of the two spouses.

Source: USA Today: “Should alimony laws be changed?”: Yamiche Alcindor, Jan. 5, 2012

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