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The State of Alimony Reform in the U.S.

The topic of alimony reform is sweeping the country. Massachusetts ended the option of lifetime alimony last year, and New Jersey's legislature is considering a similar proposal. At least a dozen other states are mulling ending lifetime alimony as well.

But is that fair? Some say no, and many of those who actually pay alimony resoundingly say yes. Let's take a look at the purpose of alimony for a minute, though. In the U.S., most married women who have children at home either don't work or work part-time.

In the article Ending Alimony Is Not So Smart, University of Virginia sociologist Brad Wilcox says, "Alimony has always protected the spouse who specializes in the care of the children and the cultivation of the home. And we know that taking time away from the workplace to raise kids is costly in terms of your immediate personal income and your long-term economic prospects."

Typically, the alimony itself is not the hot topic, although some people hold the opinion that the party responsible for the breakup shouldn't get rewarded; someone should not be able to breach the contract of marriage and get paid. For example, if a woman cheats and it leads to the demise of the marriage, she should not be eligible to receive alimony. Usually a divorce is not so cut and dried though, so that argument has a hard time gaining any traction.

Those who support alimony reform want limits on the duration of alimony, as well as length of marriage requirements that must be met before somebody is eligible for alimony. For example, the bill in Florida that was just vetoed by Governor Rick Scott deemed that for "short-term" marriages of 11 years or less, the default provision would be no alimony at all.

A big part of alimony reform is that judges would be required to uniformly apply alimony, based on specific formulas. In states without alimony reform, judges have considerable discretion as to the amount and duration of alimony.

Those who oppose alimony reform say that it's being taken too far. That women who give up careers to stay home and raise their children need to be protected. Using Florida as an example again, the vetoed legislation created the ability to allow retroactive changes to existing alimony agreements - agreements parties voluntarily executed - without requiring any change in financial circumstances.

Those who oppose alimony reform also say that it ultimately harms families, because it discourages women from staying home with their children. If women fear they will have no way to support themselves one day in the event of a divorce, they may continue working when it would actually be in the best interest for their family to stay home and raise their children.

So what do you think? Is alimony reform a good thing? Does it go too far and harm women and families? Stay tuned as this heated topic continues to get national news coverage.

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