There has been quite a debate recently about the alimony topic: Should it be revised? Is it being abused? How should it be allocated fairly? I am currently receiving alimony and my opinion is quite divided on that subject.
I was a stay-at-home mom for 12 years when I got divorced. My degree was pretty much worthless and outdated. Not wanting to be beholden to anyone for any longer than necessary, my ex and I came up with a plan that worked for both of us: I would receive a higher than average alimony for only 5 years that monetarily stepped down gradually as our child became older. I was entitled by law to receive alimony for 10 years, but the thought of still being dependent that long made my stomach cringe. The alimony provided me the opportunity to get certified online to be a life coach and build my business. I needed to update my skills to become a viable member of the workforce again.
Let’s just be clear: I do not take satisfaction that I am making my ex pay me a decent amount for a limited amount of time. In the beginning, there was power attached to when and how I was given the money. It was given in person, by check, usually on the last day of the month. I had to take it and scramble to deposit it in time to pay my bills on time. I refused to beg for the money with reminders. I had my pride. Over time, the power struggle dissolved because I chose not to participate in it and the money began to be automatically transferred even a few days early.
On the flip side, I see women completely take advantage of the system with a sense of entitlement: “He owes me and I will make him pay!” Recently, an article was published that Harold Ham’s wife refused a check of close to $1 billion dollars. In my opinion, that is using the law to your own gain. If there is that much money involved, the division of marital assets should be enough to live on. The allocation of alimony should be only to help an ex-spouse get back on his/her own feet again. In the cases of grey divorces where the ex-spouse is older and would not be able to find a decent job, it feels appropriate to have lifetime alimony, within reason!
Moving into another tangent of the alimony debate, men are now asking for alimony from their ex-wives. There has been an outcry from these women that they shouldn’t have to pay: “I’m not going to pay a man! He should man up and get a job!” Fair is fair. In today’s society in which women want equality between the sexes in the workplace, it is only fair that it applies to alimony as well. More men are now stepping into the stay-at-home dad role, taking care of the kids which allows the mother to further her career. If the husband has put his career on hold to care of the family and home, he also needs support to update his skills and time to find a decent job.
The alimony conversation is so polarized with many diverse opinions on how it should be handled. Each state has its own stipulations and there is no consistent standardization across the board. Alimony began eons ago to support the wife at the dissolution of the marriage due to misconduct by the husband. The husband should not benefit from his misconduct and thereby should allocate enough money to the wife to maintain the standard of living to which she had become accustom to. We have moved beyond that example and are now left with 4 different types of alimony: temporary, rehabilitative, permanent, or restorative. Temporary alimony is filed during the divorce for support until the decree is signed. Rehabilitative is a temporary allotment of money to help the ex-spouse get back on their feet. Permanent refers more to older divorcees who can not work anymore. Finally, restorative refers to a financial restitution of educational expenses.
Reforming the law across the board should be fair to both parties. The spouse petitioning for alimony should be able to articulate how he/she which type of alimony they are asking for and how come. The overused sense of “entitlement” should not be part of the equation. A fair amount should agreed upon with a decent timeline. Three to five years seems to be an adequate amount of time to rebuild your life. Any longer and it turns into dependency.
As you can see, I have strong subjective and objective perspectives regarding alimony. If it is used to better yourself and your family stability, than it should be awarded in a just manner. Too often, alimony is used to hurt rather than as a tool to heal. The marriage and family is broken from divorce. Using alimony as a tool to heal and help the spouse that needs it heals the whole family by creating two independent, financially responsible parents. In this way, every one can move beyond the rift divorce causes and put the emphasis on the children..where it should be.
Do you think alimony should be reformed?
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