The Economic Implications of Allimony Reform

 

Recent efforts by social conservatives to reform alimony laws appear to contradict traditional conservative values and could lead to significant economic disadvantages for divorced women.

 

Conservative politicians contend that strengthening marriage in America will reduce poverty, and some social conservatives are lobbying for laws to make attaining a divorce more difficult. However, others from the same political group are pushing for alimony reform that would drastically limit spousal support, thus making it easier for a wealthier spouse to walk away from a marriage.

Alimony reform could weaken marriage in America, rather than strengthen it.

In recent years, New Jersey has adopted several alimony reform laws that limit spousal support after divorce. As of September, 2014, New Jersey law prohibits the duration of alimony payments from exceeding the length of a marriage for marriages lasting fewer than 20 years. New Jersey prenuptial agreement laws were amended in 2013 limiting the court’s discretion in choosing not to enforce unfair prenuptial agreements. New Jersey palimony laws were amended in 2010, and now prevent unmarried domestic partners from collecting financial support after a split without a written contract. Such laws encourage wealthier partners to avoid marriage and provide an easier escape route to ending a marriage without financial repercussions.

Ninety-seven percent of the time, it is women who seek and receive alimony after a divorce. Women typically invest more time and energy into maintaining a household, forgoing career development. Without spousal support after divorce, the economically weaker spouse could be left destitute while the other partner walks away without any financial obligation. Alimony reform has the potential to disproportionately affect women and lead to increased poverty among divorced women.