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Several states modify alimony laws; should Georgia be next?

In recent years, several states have modified their laws regarding alimony, or spousal support, in response to mass criticism claiming that the current laws are outdated and out of touch with modern marriages and family financial situations. With this seeming wave of alimony reform sweeping the country, many Atlanta residents are wondering if Georgia will be next.

The alimony reforms began when citizens and family law attorneys began to call attention to spousal support laws that dated back several decades. Such laws, created when women were less likely to work outside the home, were written with the goal of ensuring women’s financial stability following a divorce. But reform advocates say that today, when the majority of women work and when salaries for women have increased, those old laws are no longer applicable.

Specifically, advocates have targeted judges’ ability to grant permanent, lifetime alimony awards to spouses who are capable of supporting themselves. In addition, they claim that judges have too much discretion when ordering spousal support.

Critics of the proposed changes say that there is no need to tell judges how to do their jobs, and new alimony laws may actually prevent judges from making the best decision for the circumstances in some situations. “It really is an unnecessary exercise in trying to control judges’ decisions.” said Kenneth Altshuler. “There’s really no need for legislatures to dictate to judges that in certain situations there shouldn’t be lifetime alimony.”

Attorney and law professor Wendy Murphy agrees, stating that the proposed laws create “arbitrary lines that treat everybody alike,” she said. “When you’re talking about families where every single case is different, judges need discretion.”

Source: USA Today, “Should alimony laws be changed?” Yamiche Alcindor, Jan. 18, 2012