Alabama’s Alimony Reform in Effect, Vermont in Talks

  • Alabama's new alimony reform law is in effect, as of January 1, 2018.
  • The law will make rehabilitative alimony the standard in most cases.
  • Vermont advocacy groups and legislators discussing alimony reform.

After a divorce is finalized, the level of loss can feel difficult to quantify. As much as you may have been physically and emotionally invested in the relationship and in the marriage, the financial ramifications of it ending are one of the few ways of actually seeing the costs first hand.

This level of financial loss lasts long after the end of the marriage in the form of alimony and child support. It is one thing if you are supporting your shared children, but when there aren’t children involved and you are paying alimony, it can feel like you still are carrying a part of the dissolved marriage with you for years on end.

Financial ramifications of alimony

With the majority of alimony being paid by men who lose between 10 and 40 percent of their standard of living, the burden of payment can create years of financial hardship that can be difficult to recover from.

This is why many states are seeking to relieve those who pay alimony from their financial burdens. The most recent state whose alimony law went into effect January 1, 2018 is Alabama.

Alabama’s reform

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed HB257 into law April 13, 2017. HB 257 changes the way alimony is handled by making rehabilitative alimony the standard form, according to WDHN News in Dothan. Rehabilitative alimony includes payments lasting five years or less with the possibility of exceptions to the law.

Unless the marriage in question lasts longer than 20 years, the law also prohibits alimony payments to last longer than the length of the marriage, in cases where the court finds a reason to deviate from rehabilitative alimony.

In cases of deviation, HB 257 states that the courts must expressly find all of the following in order to grant it: the receiving party lacks a separate place to live or his or her separate place to live is insufficient to enable the receiving party to maintain their standard of living as it existed during the marriage, the paying party has the ability to supply the alimony without economic hardship, and the circumstances of the case make it equitable.

HB 257 also states that in the cases of divorce, legal separation, or annulment, the court may award either spouse interim alimony based on a show of all of the following: the spouse maintains the validity of the marriage, the spouse needs interim alimony, after taking into consideration any other financial contributions provided by the other spouse pursuant to other interim orders of the court, and the other spouse has the ability to pay interim alimony.

Helping hands

The changes to the system will help those that economically suffer the consequences of having to pay alimony. This change can help offset some of the lowering of the payor’s standard of living. According to the financial advisors at The Balance, estimates show that divorced spouses would need more than a 30 percent increase in their income, on average, to maintain the same standard of living they had before their divorce.

Conceptually, alimony modification can often receive backlash, making legislation like HB 257 unpopular. In other places, it can take a long time for legislation regarding alimony reform to be settled upon.

Vermont discussions

In Vermont, legislators have assembled the Spousal Support and Maintenance Task Force for the purposes of reviewing and making legislative recommendations to Vermont’s laws concerning spousal support and maintenance.

The task force was made up of representatives from the Vermont Commission on Women and Vermont Alimony reform, according to Valley News. The groups previously clashed during a hearing, where commission representatives argued that the reform agenda could have an unfair impact on women.

Those seeking reform urge the caution that a court’s discretion would entail. The advocacy groups and the lawmakers are uninterested in rigid regulations that prevent a review of circumstances.

A review of circumstances is important. Whether they are in Alabama or Vermont, many divorced individuals may be finding themselves paying alimony well into their retirement years and may be forced back into the workforce, as a result. In revisiting these regulations, states are continuing to serve in the best interests of their citizens and their financial well-beings.

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