Guest Author - Caroline Henrich
Alimony is still awarded in many states. The amounts and circumstances for awards are usually a combination of state statues and judicial interpretations. There are numerous criteria used to award alimony which includes the length of the marriage, the amount earned by the person requesting alimony, the amount earned by the person that is being asked to pay alimony, illness and even marital misconduct.
Historically alimony was awarded to wives and paid by the husbands. Today women are also ordered to make alimony payments to their husbands. Courts often permit one or both parties to request a review of the amount of the award or the time period that the amount is to be paid.
The amount and duration of alimony payments are often extremely contentious during a divorce process. Many people feel it is outdated. Some believe that if it is awarded, it should be for a limited time period. Others believe that if one spouse stayed home to care for children or worked to put their spouse through school, they are entitled to long term payments.
However if a person is physically and intellectually capable of learning productive skills or re-entering the workforce, isn't it in the best interest of society to encourage this behavior? Increasing one spouse's earning potential would enhance self esteem and support the economy. The above view however must be tempered by child rearing obligations, illnesses and other circumstances.
There is clearly not a one size fits all answer to a complicated question as to whether alimony is outdated or still necessary. Regardless of your view, one issue is often clear. The litigation involving the initial award of alimony and the requests to reopen alimony are extremely expensive due to legal costs. This should be stream-lined with accountants and other non-legal professionals. Having reports provided directly to a court for review or a mediator can limit the emotional stress of litigation, as well as the cost.
When considering a request for alimony, a request to terminate alimony or reduce the amount or duration of alimony, have your legal representative review the law carefully with you. Using intellect and not emotion will enable you to think clearly and agree to a solution that is reasonable and fair. Alimony is not about seeking revenge or making anyone "pay". Please make sure when discussing alimony with your counsel, expert or representative you remain realistic, transparent and focused. Monitor your representative to make sure he/she is efficient.
It is likely alimony will continue to be awarded in the future. As you navigate through divorce and the post divorce time period, educate yourself about alimony, ask questions, remain focused and do not seek "revenge". Have a realistic expectation of what you are and should be entitled to and seek this result in a thoughtful manner that shows your respect for the court, your spouse and yourself.