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Is Alimony Reform Coming To Virginia?

In 2012, Massachusetts passed a new law reforming alimony laws in that state. In the past, it was possible for a judge to require a higher-paying spouse to pay alimony to a lower-paying spouse “permanently” for life. The new legislation puts limits on the amount and length of time for which a higher-earning spouse may be obligated to pay spousal support to the lower-earning spouse after a divorce. Could such legislation be coming to Virginia? 

Thus far, the answer to that question is “no.” Currently, there is no serious effort on the part of politicians to reform alimony laws in the commonwealth of Virginia. But, in a 2012 CNN article, Steve Hitner, Founder and President of Mass Alimony Reform, claims that he has “[consulted] with divorce reform activists” in several other states, including Virginia.  

What did the 2012 Massachusetts alimony reforms accomplish? In his CNN article, Steve Hitner says that the law “provides guidelines and structure, consistency and predictability” and more “reasonable” terms of alimony, including guidelines for alimony based on the length of a marriage. Hitner believes that the reforms will ultimately help lower-earning former spouses adjust so that they may choose to secure jobs of their own and plan and budget better so they can live on the alimony marital assets, Social Security and pensions they receive after a divorce. The new law also “suspends, reduces or terminates” alimony if the recipient spouse chooses to live with someone else. In addition, the obligation to pay alimony is set to end when the payer reaches full retirement age, as defined by the Social Security Act. 

In a rebuttal to Steve Hitner’s article, attorney Wendy Murphy calls the new Massachusetts alimony laws “strangely arcane” and extremely bad for women, whom she says are 97 percent of the recipients of alimony nationwide. Murphy goes so far as to liken the results to a ‘government job:’ “The more years you log, the bigger your pension, and, if you make it to certain cut-off periods, you get a larger sum.” 

If you have questions about alimony or spousal support in Virginia, Darrell M. Harding, Attorney at Law can help. The firm has served clients in Norfolk, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach for more than 20 years.

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