It appears we may be one step closer to alimony reform. The task force on alimony reform filed its findings in mid-March, and the long, slow legislative process of the Commonwealth will now have an excellent document to work from.
The new template gives a lot of guidance for situations where there are no dependent children, while still allowing for judicial discretion (and good advocacy) in certain circumstances.
I am not sure how the task force derived the time frames for the length of alimony terms, but they are as follows. If the marital partnership (which can mean more than the time of the marriage) is up to:
- 5 years, than the maximum percentage of time alimony can be ordered paid is 50% (or 2.5 years)
- more than 5 and up to 10 years, 60%
- more than 10 and up to 15 years, 70%
- more than fifteen and up to 20 years 80%
After a term of 20 years, the alimony can become “indefinite”. I think this is problematic as the marriage becomes longer. What really is the difference in earning capacity of a person who has been out of the workforce 16 years and one who has been out 20 years? It can result in arbitrary rulings.
The judges do have discretion, as with the child support guidelines, but in practice (just ask anyone who has dealt with an attorney from the Department of Revenue) “the guidelines are the guidelines” and they are very hard to get past.
The alimony guidelines are not yet law, they are far from it. However, some judges are beginning to use them and to tell practitioners to expect them to rule following the task force’s recommendations.