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Changing Trends in Alimony and the Impact on Iowa Law (Part 1)

In recent years, legislatures across the country have been faced with a rising call for change in alimony laws. Approximately 420,000 Americans receive some type of alimony, but, increasingly, both men and women are pushing back against the assumption of permanent alimony following a divorce. Luscombe, Belinda. The End of Alimony, TIME Magazine, vol. 181, no. 20 (May 27, 2013). Permanent alimony differs slightly state by state, but is typically a long-term support payment that lasts until either the paying spouse dies or retires, or until the spouse receiving alimony remarries, begins receiving social security benefits, or dies.
Reformers in Massachusetts and Florida lead the charge against permanent alimony, contesting the assumption of dependency that they believe the system supports. They challenge lawmakers to take into consideration the changing social tides, the increase of women in the workplace and universities, and the unfairness to future spouses and children. Id. Reformers desire a clean break following a short-term period of rehabilitative alimony, supporting permanent alimony only in extreme circumstances. Id. Reformers in Massachusetts have successfully changed their alimony laws, abolishing lifetime alimony in 2011 and replacing it with a formula and guidelines for awarding limited alimony. Id. Reformers in Florida have yet to see a change in their state’s alimony laws after a bill that would have ended permanent alimony was vetoed by Governor Scott in April 2013. Id.
Proponents of the status quo, on the other hand, want to remind lawmakers of the original purpose of permanent alimony – to protect those spouses who sacrificed their own career potential for their family or the advancement of their ex-spouse’s career. Id. Those individuals, who have been out of the workforce for years, sometimes decades, may not have the types of skills that allow them to find a job making a living wage following a divorce; alimony compensates the non-working spouse for the support that would have been provided to them if the marriage had continued. In re Marriage of Probasco, 676 N.W.2d 179, 185 (Iowa 2004).

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