Kathleen J. Smith, Attorney at Law

California man hopes to reform alimony laws

Is it time for the alimony laws in California to change?

Many people now see "lifetime" alimony for a former spouse to be unfair -- a relic of former times when men were usually the sole breadwinners for a family and women were expected to stay at home. Today, both spouses usually work and can provide for themselves -- but the law doesn't always change with the times until someone pushes the issue.

Currently, alimony in California can be awarded for a "reasonable period of time," up to half the length of the marriage. However, for marriages that lasted longer than a decade, family court judges have broad discretion to order spousal support without a specified end date.

For some former spouses who are on the hook for payments, that can feel like a punishment they don't deserve and a tie to their former spouse that they don't want. It can also be a huge financial drain on their resources.

One man, who is required to pay his ex-wife $1,000 a month for what will likely be the rest of his (or her) life, is seeking to reform the state's alimony laws. Noting that even child support ends after 18 years, he says that the current system is outdated and unfair. He also blames the fear of being stuck with alimony payments as one reason fewer people are getting married these days. His proposal has a long way to go -- but would ultimately limit alimony payments to a maximum of five years, if successful.

Spousal support is often one of the biggest sticking points in a divorce -- particularly if one half of the couple is a high-earner. Don't hesitate to seek legal advice about spousal support early in the divorce process to help protect your interests.

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