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Permanent alimony places burden on payers

In several states including Connecticut, the courts are rethinking the concept of permanent alimony, especially as they consider what a woman earns and how job upheavals can affect a husband's income. One 41-year-old man from New Jersey who was ordered to pay lifetime alimony has been taken into custody at least eight times in two years because he couldn't make payments. With former earnings of $1 million annually as an investment manager for a portfolio firm, he suffered when the economy struggled. He feels that court-ordered, lifetime spousal support isn't fair, especially when he doesn't have a job.

Massachusetts adopted alimony reform legislation in 2011 based on recommendations from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. The new laws did away with lifetime spousal support and provided judges with new ways to figure out payments. Two other states have also eliminated lifetime spousal support, and legislators in at least 10 other states are looking at more restrictive laws.

In June, the Connecticut Governor approved a law that adjusted alimony payments based on education and earning power. The new legislation goes into effect on Oct. 1 and requires the courts to clearly state the reason for any award of permanent alimony. Legislators must also review current laws and recommend updates by Feb. 2014.

Other states across the nation are taking a variety of actions, including completely doing away with permanent alimony. Some states determine if a person qualifies for permanent alimony based on the length of their marriage. Others consider changes in work status or allow payments to stop when the payer retires. During a divorce, financial negotiations may be a big challenge. A family lawyer might be able to help clients work out differences in difficult matters, such as alimony and child support payments.

Source: Bloomberg, "Jail Becomes Home for Husband Stuck With Lifetime Alimony", Sophia Pearson, August 26, 2013

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