By Gerri Elder
Is alimony old fashioned? If the amount of current legislation and lawsuits being filed across the country is any indication, it seems as though many people do believe that the concept of traditional alimony is outdated.
Many issues about alimony payments are now being debated. Some feel that judges have too much leeway in deciding all aspects of alimony payments including who pays it, how much they pay and for how long. It's often insinuated or even declared outright that judges tend to unfairly favor women in divorce cases when awarding alimony. New legislation targets these topics and others and puts priority on bringing laws regarding alimony awards up to date.
The National Law Journal has reported that several states, including Massachusetts, Nevada and Florida are all considering bills that would revamp alimony laws.
The bill being considered in Massachusetts would put limits on the duration of alimony payments and also establish the source of the money used to make the payments. Specifically, the bill would prevent the income of a second wife from being used to pay alimony payments to the first wife. Alimony payments would also be limited to 12 years or half the length of the marriage, depending on whichever is less.
The Massachusetts and Boston bar associations have stepped up to the plate on the alimony issue as well and recently created a Joint Alimony Task Force. The purpose of the task force will be to recommend new standards in Massachusetts to ensure that the amount and duration of alimony payments are reasonable.
Lawmakers in Nevada are batting around a bill that would limit the discretion of judges in making alimony awards by establishing specific rules to determine what alimony award is appropriate. Currently there are no rules or guidelines and judges establish alimony based completely on their own opinions. This legislation was introduced in Nevada after millionaire Darren Mack killed his wife and shot a judge who ordered him to pay her $10,000 per month in alimony.
New York also currently has no specific guidelines regarding alimony. Family law attorneys are lobbying state legislators to make changes to the alimony laws there to set rules and standards for judges to follow when awarding alimony.
A ballot initiative fueled by anti-alimony activists is under way in Florida seeking an amendment to the state's Constitution that would abolish lifetime alimony awards.
In recent years, lawsuits in seven states have been filed challenging the constitutionality of alimony laws. So far, none of these lawsuits have been successful.
It is hardly likely that alimony awards will ever be abolished as some of the alimony payers would like. However, given the amount of legislation underway regarding how alimony is determined, it is likely that there will be some changes made to the current laws in many states to bring them up to date with modern society.