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Finding a balance in alimony legislation

Maryland residents are aware that spousal support legislation is a tricky subject, and one that divides many people. There are states that are currently considering changes to existing alimony legislation, and debate on the topic has reached many dinner tables throughout the nation. While there are good points on both sides of the matter, legislators have a tough task in trying to create laws that are both fair and balanced.

As an example, consider a spouse who becomes injured or ill while married. If a divorce takes place, that spouse's financial dependence on the other party is likely to become an issue. The resulting alimony amount could be based on the fact that the receiving spouse has a limited ability to provide for his or her own needs. From the perspective of some, a lifetime alimony award may seem fair.

Viewed from a different perspective, however, an argument can be made that it is not the responsibility of a former spouse to provide lengthy financial support for a partner who became ill through no fault of the paying party. While it is certainly unfortunate that anyone encounters a disability, it is hard to argue that the obligation for supporting that person should fall on a former partner, and not the state. Had the illness or injury taken place after the divorce and not before, the state or other family members would be expected to assist, not the ex-spouse.

This is just one limited example of the issues involved in alimony legislation. There are many different angles to consider when trying to determine how to change existing laws to make spousal support fair to all parties. It should also be noted that there are plenty of people who firmly believe that, except for drastic cases of abuse, alimony should be abolished altogether, which often comes up during debates on the matter. For those in Maryland who feel that the topic holds no relevance to their own lives, it is important to understand that alimony laws can and do change over time.

Source:, "Contentious Divorce: Why Spousal Support Laws Need Changing", April 17, 2017

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