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Friday, February 18th 2011

The New Art of Alimony

First, this is probably not a big issue for Texans since Texas takes one of the most stringent approaches to alimony/maintenance in the Union.  Nevertheless, the Wall Street Journal reports that several U.S. states are reevaluating their alimony laws, including placing time limits on alimony, barring alimony if two divorcing spouses are equally employed, and ending or reducing alimony if the spouse receiving alimony remarries or enters into a romantic relationship.  The WSJ identified Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Ohio, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina as states that are examining their alimony laws.  The impetus for the reform lies in divorced baby boomers feeling the pinch of alimony as they near retirement age and the national recession has reduced their retirement accounts.

The article details the story of Mr. Taylor who divorced his wife of 17 years in 1982.  The divorce decree had no provisions for alimony.  There are no allegations that the Taylors remained in a relationship, in fact, Mr. Taylor remarried.  In 2003, more than 21 years after the divorce, Ms. Taylor cited a "change in circumstances" and requested alimony from her ex-husband of 20+ years.  In 2008, a probate judge ordered that Mr. Taylor pay his ex-wife $400 per week for five years then $250 per week for the rest of her life.

The fundamental question is whether alimony payments are viewed as transitional or as long term dividend for sacrifices made during the marriage.  The Texas Legislature has clearly announced that at least in Texas, alimony payments are transitional and have applied a three year post divorce time limitation on such payments.

The New Art of Alimony

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