What is fair alimony in the 21st century? Alimony was originally designed to protect a woman and family from falling into poverty after a divorce. It originated during a time when women were mainly at home caregivers where many lacked proper educations allowing for sufficient employment. However, in recent times the majority of women work and nearly a third have college degrees.
Florida lawmakers are pushing to overhaul the state’s alimony law in a bid to better reflect today’s marriages and make the system less burdensome for the alimony payer. Florida joins a growing number of states that seek to rewrite alimony laws by curbing lifelong alimony and alleviate the financial stress that some payers — still mostly men — say they are forced to take on.
“It can strangle the person that is paying it,” said Alan Frisher, the founder of Florida Alimony Reform, an organization of 2,000 members, several of whom testified recently at legislative committee hearings. “Oftentimes, we can’t afford to pay that amount of alimony. It can provide a disincentive for the receiver to ever go back to work, to make more money or remarry. I don’t think anybody should have to be an indentured servant for the rest of their lives.”
The legislature in Massachusetts, which had some of the country’s most antiquated alimony laws, passed without opposition a measure to rewrite the laws and make them more equitable.
Commissions in other states have been set up to collect data and stories about the hardships of long-term alimony payments and presenting them to lawmakers to hopefully make the necessary changes to bring the alimony laws to the 21st Century and to take into account current household dynamics. If the standard of living must drop after a divorce, as it often does, the burden should be equally shared.