The Helpless Housewife, Part 1: Time Article Predicts the End of Permanent Alimony

According to the article, "The End of Alimony," by Belinda Luscombe, published in Time magazine, the idea of alimony, that a husband should pay to support a wife he has cast aside, has existed, apparently, since Hammurabi. The idea existed in medieval Europe, even though divorce was not legally recognized at the time, and has also surfaced in our society. Some people say that now is the time for reform.

How does spousal support work in Virginia?

In Virginia, there is no specific formula to determine spousal support, so spousal support awards can vary drastically between one woman and the next. Though permanent spousal support is typically reserved for women who were coming out of long-term marriages, there is nothing in the statute that requires that it only be awarded as a result of a long-term marriage. Spousal support can be difficult to predict, and it’s always tricky part of negotiation or litigation.

How does Virginia compare to other states?

The rules are different in other states. In Kansas, for example, alimony payments are limited to ten years and one month. In New Jersey, the court can consider behavior that “shocks the conscience” when lessening or increasing a spousal support award. In Utah, spousal support cannot be awarded for longer than the duration of the marriage.

Why is alimony under fire?

It’s impossible to deny: the world is changing, and so is a woman’s place in it. No longer the helpless housewife, women today are graduating college, scoring top tier jobs, and, in some cases, out-earning their husbands. Though women still do typically earn less than men, things are definitely changing.

Before now, opportunities for women weren’t as good as they are now. No one is arguing that women have completely equal opportunities with men, but things are better now than ever before in history. Supporters of modifying the rules about permanent spousal support argue that women are no longer the “helpless housewives” they were in previous generations. Women can get out and get jobs—good jobs—so there’s no reason for husband’s to be paying for their support for years and years after the marriage.

…Does that mean that permanent spousal support is doomed?

This post is based on an article from Time, “The End of Alimony,” by Belinda Luscombe.

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