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Alimony changes begin, trend starting in other states

Changes in many states are bringing an important part of the divorce process into the spotlight: Spousal support. State legislatures are considering alterations to alimony laws and some believe that it is time for change. Early awareness to changes such as this could make the difference during a divorce in Ohio.

According to advocates for alimony reform, laws concerning divorce in many states were created decades ago when fewer marriages were ending. Back then, fewer women worked and alimony was established so women -- who often had lower or no income -- could continue surviving financially after a marriage was over.

Now, many more women are in the workforce and the median income for them has risen by almost $10,000 since 1979.

So why do so many states still have lifetime alimony as their main option? That is the question that several groups working toward alimony change have been asking for years.

When a judge assigns lifetime alimony, an individual must pay his or her former spouse for the rest of their lives. This often extends far into retirement, sometimes affecting those who have long been divorced and no longer remember the former spouse due to their mental health.

A 72-year-old man diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease more than a decade ago is a prime example of this extreme situation. The ex-wife he pays $25,200 in annual alimony to is a college professor to whom he has not been married since 1997. His current wife takes care of him daily and she cannot do a thing about the alimony payments being made.

Opponents of the change believe that this is an attempt to control what a judge can or cannot decide. They also think that there could be innocent victims who still need the alimony from a decades-ago divorce. At-home spouses who do not have income and cannot receive lifetime alimony because of reform are a good example.

Some of the suggested changes would allow for alimony payments to end when a former spouse has a live-in partner or when the payer reaches retirement age.

Source: CNBC, "Should Alimony Laws Be Changed?," Yamiche Alcindor, Jan. 24, 2012

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