Tuesday, November 17, 2009

WSJ Readers Respond Emotionally to Article on Alimony

Alimony, now known as spousal support here in Michigan, is one of those topics in family law that elicits an emotional response from nearly everyone.  In tough economic times, most people have a gut reaction to the concept of paying financial support for an ex-spouse. 

Whether alimony is appropriate, however, is a fact-specific analysis, with each family bringing much different facts into court and into the equation.  A recent WSJ article by Jennifer Levitz takes an anecdotal look at the concept of alimony.  Her readership posted 175 emotionally-charged comments to the article on this apparently sore subject.

Levitz's article focused on the inequities that can result from alimony awards when years pass, and circumstances change.  The article also noted that many states, (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina, among them), are considering legislation to limit alimony.  Some of the states have activitst groups (with memberships of "burned" former spouses, no doubt) that have hired lobbyists for the task.

In Michigan, spousal support is alive and well; but it's not your Grandfather's alimony.  Unlike child support which is calculated by a formula using the inputs of the relative incomes of the parents, and the number of overnight parenting sessions with the "non-custodial" parent, alimony is always negotiable.

Significant considerations include whether spousal support is forever barred, or whether it is awarded and, if so, whether the award is modifiable.  In some cases, it makes sense to bargain for the certainty of non-modifiable alimony; the payor knows what he's in for, and for how long.  Other cases call for a compete ban on alimony, either because each spouse is professionally equal, the marriage was of relatively short-term, or because the property division favored the "lesser-earning" spouse.

These are all considerations one must take into account as a divorce proceeds toward judgment.

If you are facing a divorce that may include some of these issues, contact our firm to discuss your options.  We can provide you with immediate peace of mind with sound legal advice based on your specific circumstances.


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