Alimony Reform: For Better or for Worse

Posted in Divorce

Alimony reform appears to be gaining momentum across the country.  Last month New York State modified their alimony laws by adopting a formula for setting alimony thus making alimony fairer and easier to predict.  Massachusetts is currently considering a bill that would cap the duration of alimony based upon the length of marriage.

Are these reforms a good idea?  Certainly the use of a formula to determine alimony will take much of the guess work away from parties and their lawyers which should, in turn, lead to more cases settling rather than being tried before a judge.  Additionally, the formula should put an end to extreme alimony awards and make the awards much more consistent in each case.

What happens in a Bucks County or Montgomery County Divorce?
Pennsylvania follows a similar “formula” type approach as New York State just adopted.  But Pennsylvania only applies this to “temporary alimony” (also known as alimony pendent lite) which is in effect until the Divorce is finalized.  To determine an alimony award (or support after the marriage is over) Pennsylvania, and the majority of other states, use various factors such as: length of marriage; respective income of each party; assets distributed to each party; ages and health; marital misconduct; etc.  The use of these factors, and which factors are more heavily weighed, varies dramatically from Court to Court and Judge to Judge.  As a result alimony awards are highly unpredictable.

Changing alimony awards from a gamble to something more predictable should make the divorce process much fairer and reduce litigation.

If you are considering a divorce or even just separation, it is important to consult with an attorney to discuss how much, if any, support you can expect to receive and for how long.