In an interesting an enlightening new article on alimony, the author indicates that spousal support (alimony) should be based more on a case-by-case basis rather than an automatic award as it is in California. She states that if both parties can support themselves, then there should be no spousal support. In the case of one spouse needing time to get into or back into a career (such as when one has been raising children), then spousal support is appropriate to help the supported spouse get into a career.
This sounds very fair, but I have two problems with it: First, it is hard to create a law around this proposal. In California, spousal support generally lasts for half the length of the marriage and is intended to even out, as much as possible, the finances of the two parties. Second, in our economic environment, it is hard to make ends meet. In a divorce, when the couple splits, generally one spouse moves out and in an instant the same amount of money – whether it’s one or two incomes – is supporting two households. Two rents/mortgages, two sets of utilities, not to mention the initial financial requirement of getting into a home, buying furniture, dishes, etc. When one spouse makes a great deal more than the other, or even a little bit more, it can be impossible, simply looking at the numbers, for the lower-earning spouse to make it.
I found it interesting that, in the article, the older individuals in the crowd were more in favor of spousal support than the younger. I would agree that, in younger couples, there is less of a likelihood that one spouse is not working and stays home exclusively. Many couples now share the parenting responsibilities as well as the financial responsibilities. It does seem unfair for one spouse to have to pay on an ongoing basis for the support of the spouse they are divorcing. I know this because I have represented dozens and dozens of men and women who have had to pay spousal support. There is almost always some kind of negative feeling attached to it. But until we have a way to better equalize the earning of couples, I think spousal support will remain.