Home > divorce, Marriage > WSJ: The New Art of Alimony

WSJ: The New Art of Alimony

Blind_JusticeI Stumbled Upon “The New Art of Alimony” yesterday in The Wall Street Journal and the sub-heading immediately caught my eye. This article contains very important information for many of the readers here, so I’m republishing it. Here is the link to the original article.

Unjust alimony and spousal support practices will continue until enough people, men and women both, come together to have the outdated divorce and family court laws changed. Please take time to read this article and then find out what you can do to support reforming these draconian laws.

The New Art of Alimony by Jennifer Levitz, Boston

Long viewed as payment for life, divorce settlements are facing strict new limits as some ex-spouses—primarily men—protest the endless support of a former partner. For richer, for poorer, forever?

Paul and Theresa Taylor were married for 17 years. He was an engineer for Boston’s public-works department, while she worked in accounting at a publishing company. They had three children, a weekend cottage on the bay and a house in the suburbs, on a leafy street called Cranberry Lane. In 1982, when they got divorced, the split was amicable. She got the family home; he got the second home. Both agreed “to waive any right to past, present or future alimony.”

But recently, more than two decades after the divorce, Ms. Taylor, 64, told a Massachusetts judge she had no job, retirement savings or health insurance. Earlier this year, the judge ordered Mr. Taylor, now 68 and remarried, to pay $400 per week to support his ex-wife.


This is insane,” Mr. Taylor says, adding that the payments cut his after-tax pension by more than one-third. “Someone can just come back 25 years later and say, ‘My life went down the toilet, and you’re doing good—so now I want some of your money’?

The nature of marriage has changed dramatically over the decades. Women now make up almost half of the American work force. But alimony, a concept enshrined in ancient law, has remained remarkably constant. Now, the idea that a husband should continue to support his wife forever, even after the demise of their marriage—long a bedrock of divorce law—is being called into question. Pressures are mounting to change a practice that some see as outdated and unfair.

Several U.S. states are battling to place new limits on alimony and rewrite decades-old laws. In Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Oklahoma, lawmakers are pushing for measures like putting time limits on alimony payments, barring alimony if two divorcing spouses are on equal footing professionally, and ending or reducing alimony if the recipient commits a crime or cohabits with another adult in a romantic relationship. Lobbyists and activists are pressing for similar rules in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina.

In Massachusetts a bill backed by a group called “Reform Massachusetts Alimony Laws Now!” has 72 sponsors and would require a spouse receiving alimony to become self-sufficient, or attempt to, after a reasonable time. That would establish alimony as a temporary payment instead of a permanent entitlement, as is often the case now. A second bill, in the state Senate, would modify the law less radically by adding “duration” to the factors judges can consider when setting alimony payments.

The House bill would end the currently common practice of using the assets of a second spouse to determine the ability of a person to pay alimony. Alimony could only be adjusted upward for cost-of-living increases, and alimony obligations would end upon the retirement of the payer, though judges would still have the flexibility to take into account special circumstances.

State alimony laws, many passed in the 1960s and 1970s, were designed to help nonworking or lesser-earning spouses after divorce. Many states allow for recipients to receive payments for life. Proponents say the money compensates some spouses who have sacrificed careers for families and is particularly vital to low- and middle-income women. Detractors have long called the laws unfair in an age when many women work, with people making payments for years that their former spouses don’t really need.

At the core of alimony debate is whether the payments are viewed as transitional—until the dependent spouse gets back on his or her feet—or a long-term dividend for sacrifices made during a marriage.

Now this simmering debate is boiling over. As divorced baby boomers reach retirement age, recession has decimated nest eggs and erased millions of jobs. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported a “big spike” this year in clients seeking to modify their alimony arrangements. In a March survey, 42% of the group’s divorce attorneys reported an “unusual” increase in such cases, with 6% reporting a drop.

In Los Angeles, Family Court Judge Marjorie Steinberg also reports a “dramatic” surge in these requests. She says petitioners include one-time high earners who’ve lost their jobs, a group she says she’d “rarely seen before.”

The bill in Massachusetts’ House of Representatives has gained the support of a group called the 2nd Wives Club. Club co-founder Jeanie Hitner, who is 59 and lives in Marlbourough, Mass., testified to state legislators last month that she is working a second job—tutoring math four nights a week—to help her husband make alimony payments to his first wife.

Ms. Hitner says she wishes she had just stayed his girlfriend. “If I had known about this before we got married, I never would have married him,” says Ms. Hitner. Her husband, Steve Hitner, is the head of Reform Massachusetts Alimony Laws Now!, a grass-roots group that consists mostly of alimony-paying men, and supports the same bill. “I don’t blame her; I never would have put her through this if I had known what she was going to be in for,” Mr. Hitner says.

Opponents of the bill say it may not adequately protect those who rely on alimony payments. Massachusetts State Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem, a Democrat and a divorce lawyer who co-chairs the joint judiciary committee, has called for a commission to study all the alimony legislation, a move that could delay a vote until next summer. Sen. Stone Creem filed her own bill, which would modify the state’s law slightly, giving judges greater leeway in setting the duration of alimony payments.

In their 1982 divorce agreement, Paul and Theresa Taylor agreed ‘to waive any right to past, present or future alimony.’ A Massachusetts judge recently ordered Mr. Taylor, to make payments to his ex-wife.

Many states put formal alimony laws into place in the 1960s and 1970s, amid rising divorce rates and concerns that women earned less than men. States such as California and Massachusetts passed laws that included provisions for indefinite alimony. More-conservative Texas, by comparison, generally limited payments to three years.

Many divorce agreements provide for alimony or spouse-support payments, which is separate from child-support payments. Americans gave $9.4 billion to former spouses in 2007, up from $5.6 billion a decade earlier, according to the Internal Revenue Service. Men accounted for 97% of alimony-payers last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, although the share of women supporting ex-husbands is on the rise.

Critics argue that in the decades since alimony guidelines were set, the U.S. has changed much: Women made up 46.7% of the work force last year, up from 41.2% in 1978, according to the Department of Labor. Others counter that America hasn’t changed enough: Women in the 45-to-54-year-old age group earn 75% as much as men the same age.

But the momentum appears to be with those who seek to guard alimony payers’ shrinking resources. Legislation may be gaining traction in part because powerful citizens and lawmakers, themselves divorced, are getting a close-up view of what they see as a flawed alimony system, says retired Judge Robert D. Frank, who handled divorce cases in Tulsa, Okla.

In April, for example, Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge David French prevailed following a 16-year battle to stop or reduce his alimony payments. A state appeals court ruled that Mr. French should not be forced to pay $3,400 a month to his ex-wife, who has lived for nearly 20 years with another man. The judge ordered the ex-wife to pay Mr. French $151,000, the amount she had received from him since he filed a previous case in 2005. Ms. French’s lawyer did not return a call seeking comment. Amy Shield, Mr. French’s lawyer, said he was pleased with the decision.

A Florida group has hired a lobbyist to push a bill limiting alimony payments to three years. Ohio’s bar association, meanwhile, is lining up legislative sponsors for a bill that could shorten alimony terms—ending support after seven years, for example, following a marriage that lasted 15. Pennsylvania’s Senate is considering a bill that could cut alimony to recipients who live in a romantic relationship with another adult.

Last month, Massachusetts representatives heard testimony from Brenda Caggiano, a 70-year-old retired first-grade teacher who supports her ex-husband, Robert, a certified public accountant. When the Caggianos divorced in 2003, they split their assets. He got their home on Cape Cod. She got their home in a Boston suburb, and paid him the $57,000 difference in the value of the homes.

Ms. Caggiano earned more at the time, so the court ordered her to pay $125 in weekly alimony until her death or her former husband’s remarriage. Since Massachusetts is a “no-fault” divorce state, it made no difference that it was, as both parties acknowledge, Mr. Caggiano who left home.

Ms. Caggiano says she’s living pension-check-to-pension-check and has had to tap a home-equity line of credit to fix her roof. “It’s a disgrace that this man is taking my money when he’s perfectly capable of supporting himself,” she says.

Mr. Caggiano, who is 68, said in an interview he has no mortgage and that his girlfriend, who works full-time, has moved in. He says the couple recently traveled to Italy, and that he spent $60,000 to install hardwood floors, granite countertops and big windows “to get a beautiful view of the water.” He keeps his accounting practice to a few clients: “I’m not going out there trying to develop new business.”

Asked why he should receive alimony, Mr. Caggiano said he sees it as reimbursement for a time early in their marriage when he paid most expenses, including the down payments on the two homes that were divided at the divorce. Ms. Caggiano says she wants a court to modify her payments but can’t afford an attorney.

Another Massachusetts pair, Rudolph and Carneice Pierce, have taken their battle to the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. As soon as next month, the court is expected to issue its decision, which could have broad implications for retirement-aged baby boomers.

The Pierces were divorced in 1999 after 32 years of marriage. He was a partner at a Boston law firm and a former state judge. She had worked at International Business Machines Corp. for 27 years. They equally divided $1.4 million in assets, and the court ordered him to pay her annual alimony of $110,000 until her remarriage or the death of either.

In March 2008, Mr. Pierce retired from his law firm and cited this change of circumstance in a request to terminate the alimony. He said his income had already fallen to about $225,000 in 2007, about half its level at the time of the divorce. A probate court reduced the annual alimony obligation to $42,000 but refused to terminate it, arguing that Mr. Pierce had ample earning power and could find another job, such as teaching.

Mr. Pierce, now 67, argues that the court was telling him, in effect, that he couldn’t retire. He appealed to the state’s supreme court.

Ms. Pierce, meanwhile, left her $95,000-a-year fund-raiser job last summer, her lawyer said, after her territory was expanded to require more travel without additional pay. In briefs filed with the supreme court, Ms. Pierce said she had been pinched by the downturn and that her retirement funds were down almost 50%. Her lawyer, David Cherny, said that while Mr. Pierce’s income had also fallen, there was still a financial disparity between the couple because she devoted more time to her family than her career during the marriage.

“She had given up a lot to this relationship,” Mr. Cherny says, adding that it would be wrong to change a divorce agreement they’d already made.

Divorce agreements can get rewritten even decades later, as retired Boston engineer Mr. Taylor has learned.

In 2003, more than two decades after agreeing to end a 17-year marriage without alimony, Ms. Taylor was diagnosed with melanoma. She lost her publishing job when her employer of 38 years filed for bankruptcy protection. She’d recently surrendered her home to the bank and filed for personal bankruptcy to resolve $27,000 in medical and credit-card debts.

Mr. Taylor, meanwhile, had retired after 33 years working for the city of Boston, with an annual pension of $56,000.

In a September 2007 complaint filed in a state probate court, Ms. Taylor cited “changes in circumstances” and sued her former husband for support payments. She wrote that Mr. Taylor owned homes in Florida and Cape Cod and traveled to Europe.

In court, Mr. Taylor said he was sensitive to his former wife’s plight, but that too much time had passed and that their divorce was final 25 years ago. His second wife, he said, had inherited the Cape Cod house from her father. Their trips were financed through home-swaps and reduced-fare tickets from his stepson, an airline employee.

In June 2008, a probate judge ordered Mr. Taylor to pay temporary alimony based on Ms. Taylor’s “dire immediate need” and his “ability to pay.” In its January final order, the court, citing Mr. Taylor’s income from his pension, told Mr. Taylor to pay his ex-wife $400 per week for five years. The payment will eventually fall to about $250 a week for the rest of her life.

Virginia Connelly, Ms. Taylor’s lawyer, says she can see how Mr. Taylor could find the situation unfair. But under Massachusetts law, she said, judges who want to keep a person off public services can turn to the ex-spouse.

In May, to seek relief from legal and other bills, Mr. Taylor declared personal bankruptcy. He is still responsible for supporting his ex-wife. “If she loses all her money, so what? She can just take me back to court,” he says. “Somewhere along the line I should have peace of mind.”

Write to Jennifer Levitz at jennifer.levitz@wsj.com

Adjusting Alimony

Ex-spouses are rethinking alimony agreements amid dwindling job prospects and savings in the economic crunch, even as some states re-evaluate alimony laws. Here are some pending proposals:

Massachusetts House Bill 1785: Alimony typically one-half the length of the marriage and no longer than 12 years, except when the supported party has minor children.

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 953: Alimony can be terminated if the recipient cohabitates with another adult in a romantic relationship.

Oklahoma House Bill 1053: Makes it harder for one spouse to tap another’s military retirement pay in a divorce settlement. Currently, military retirement pay is divided like marital property. Under the bill, the portion of military retirement pay an ex-spouse would be entitled to would end if that spouse remarries, making it similar to alimony.

Ohio State Bar Association proposal: Alimony would be temporary for a marriage of 25 years or less, with a suggestion of alimony lasting no longer than seven years for a marriage of 15 years.

Source: WSJ research

Other sites of interest:

Alimony Reform: Families for Alimony Reform

States Challenge Traditional Alimony

National Organization of Women Supports Alimony Reform

posted by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

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  1. Laura
    November 18, 2009 at 12:23 am


    Article talks about more fathers getting custody in divorce. The related articles listed at the end of this one are interesting reads as well.

    • shrink4men
      November 23, 2009 at 5:42 pm

      Hi Laura,

      This is a great article. Thanks for sharing it. It seems like some women don’t like it when the special privileges/entitlements they’ve enjoyed from family court over the last three decades are applied to men. However, I believe family court abuses will only be reformed when the sword cuts both ways.

      Dr T

  2. November 12, 2009 at 2:44 am

    I was divorced in 1983 and paid child support, but no alimony. My ex-wife got the house, but as part of the bargain, I kept my pension.

    I am now retired and have been living with a woman for over 20 years without the benefit of marriage. She is a professional employee and still works.
    Our relationship is great mainly because she knows I can leave her anytime, so she can never threaten me with divorce.

    We keep our finances separate – she owns the house we live in and I pay her rent. I think our financial arrangements are fair and thus money is never a large issue.

    My advice – NEVER GET MARRIED! Women hold ALL the rights, otherwise, they would be pushing to pass the equal rights amendment.

    • shrink4men
      November 12, 2009 at 7:24 pm

      In many cases, this is probably the best policy until divorce laws change and women aren’t allowed to legally financially rape their ex-husbands.

  3. Jim DeSantis
    November 9, 2009 at 3:34 am

    It’s interesting how marriage has become a business arrangement when it comes to finances. Legal proceedings now take precedence over common fairness and decency.

    We have become shameful.

  4. nubiansage
    November 5, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    Wow. This is scary. The thought that an ex can file for alimony long after a divorce has been finalized.

    • shrink4men
      November 5, 2009 at 11:07 pm

      It’s obscene.

  5. Shobu
    November 4, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Well, this article is timely, as have been all the other articles on this site. My STBX filed
    for temporary maintenance, or temporary alimony while the divorce proceeedings go along, but filed it as “contributions for household expenses”, although I’ve been out of the house and we haven’t been a household for over 6 months now. I had been paying 60% of the mortgage and had paid 100% of all her expenses and mortgage for 1 month that she took as leave from work (unpaid) a couple of months after I left. I told her I wasn’t going to keep paying for utilities I didn’t use, and for pets she wouldn’t let me see, so she filed for this motion to contribute after she came back from
    leave and was getting paid again. My lawyer told me to hold off on paying anything until we went to court, so we went and got totally hosed by the judge; I am paying 60% of mortgage again, although I don’t live there (she makes 60k a year, I make 90k) and now I’m paying almost 100% of her utilities plus my own expenses (rent for my own place out of the house, etc) She refuses to talk reasonably about settlement if the case, especially after her “victory” (although I consider it a victory to be out of an abusive relationship) so my lawyer suggested we appeal the decision, since he believes the judge didn’t use the criteria outlined in the law to make her decision, and that if the appeal takes a while, and I’m not paying anything, and might have a chance to have the ruling overturned, then she might feel inclined to want to settle the case as a whole. Does that seem to be a wise tactic to take with an X that might be NPD (I think she is, but I’m not certified to answer that professionally, just based on my realtionship experience, 8 yrs marriage, no kids) or am I pretty much in for a war no matter what is offered or what pressure is used? I am sure that if I don’t appeal, she’ll drag this out till Kingdom Come, but am hoping her love of a certain lifestyle will make her change her mind once the money spigot is off long enough or that she’ll get bored with me and the divorce eventually, since there is no contact or interaction other than the occasional court hearing.

    • shrink4men
      November 23, 2009 at 5:37 pm

      Hi Shobu,

      Sorry for my delayed reply. If the temporary support is a court order, I’d be very careful about stopping payment. I’m alarmed that your attorney advised yo to do this. Judges don’t like it when a person doesn’t obey court orders/agreements—especially if you’re a man. Women often get away with violating court orders.

      My concern is that if you stop paying, go back to court and get another daft judge, he or she will then make you pay arrears and then slap and even heftier monthly sum to your ex.

      If your ex is truly NPD, you’re probably in for a war. They like the drama and conflict of court. They like using “authority” to punish others. Many of these women, particularly the ones who receive egregiously unfair temporary support allowances, have no reason to settle and have attorneys whose strategy is to drag the proceedings out for as long as possible.

      Dr Tara

      • Shobu
        November 24, 2009 at 6:22 pm

        Thanks for the reply doc. You are absolutely spot on, as since I posted, the judge found me in contempt for trying to appeal and was able to block the appeal from being filed, short of me going to jail to satisfy the contempt ruling. So now I am
        paying enough until the final divorce hearing that my STBX actually makes more than I do! Kind of funny actually. It would be more frustrating except I was used to similarly frustrating issues while we were together. My attorney put together a very reasonable settlement package, but based on your advice and from what I know of my STBX, I doubt very much that she will even counteroffer through her attorney. Probably will go to trial, which will be expensive for both of us. The ironic thing is that her parents called me the other day and her mom told me to “move on” and
        “stop dragging things out” as it is becoming very expensive for them to lend their daughter money (they make and have very little extra) even though I have been asking and offering fo settlement and mediation from day one! Now they will probably go even deeper into debt to let her go to a trial when there really isn’t anything in the marital estate to split. I have been following the no contact rule, which I have to say has been great for my mental health. I feel less stressed even with all the legal proceedings and dubious legal advice than when I lived with my STBX. Is that crazy?
        I will continue to follow the no contact rule, but have to ask; if someone is truly NPD would they respond to a
        discussion explaining how much her parents are hurting financially and that she should come to a settlement? Or are NPD people (again, not diagnosing my STBX) in an effort to burn down the person trying to break free from them willing to take down anyone else unfortunate to get involved in their “vendetta” of percieved or real punishment? Or do they not care either way?
        Thanks again for a great site doc. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for your insightful posts and what a literal lifesaver you’ve been.

        • Laura
          November 24, 2009 at 6:30 pm

          You may have to extend the no-contact rule to her parents as well. If they choose to enable her, let them deal with her, but you don’t have to deal with any of them. Be free! :) All the best to you!

          PS. If you want to still have contact with her parents you might want to read the book: “When I say No I feel Guilty” … It helps to explain and provide many different ways to be assertive without coming across as rude and all the while holding your ground and sanity. I love that book. :)

        • shrink4men
          November 24, 2009 at 6:33 pm

          Hi Shobu,

          A narcissistic personality doesn’t care whom they hurt as long as they get what they want—this includes their own parents. A woman like your ex believes others live to serve her and that they should be happy to do so especially when it hurts them to do so. You see, this demonstrates their level of devotion to her. I hope you told her parents the truth, which is that their daughter is the one dragging out the divorce and by giving her their meager earnings/savings that they are ENABLING her to drag out this costly process. Additionally, if they think she’ll pay them back after everything is finalized, they’re sorely mistaken. Women like your ex believe they are owed and entitled to EVERYTHING.

          On the other hand, her parents have probably been enabling her for her entire life, so even if you tell them the truth it probably won’t make a difference. As for appealing to a narcissistic woman’s (or man’s) better nature, well, they don’t have one. In fact, if they know they’re hurting others and causing them hardship, it makes them all the more gleeful and they redouble their efforts. Don’t try to reason with her and don’t appease her because it will only fuel her desire to punish you even more. These women and men view the willingness to talk things through, reason and find compromise as a weakness, which whets their bloodlust. I’d have your attorneys hit her with everything they’ve got.

          • Shobu
            November 24, 2009 at 10:38 pm

            Thanks for the reply doc. Just to clarify, when her parents called, it went to voicemail, so the statements they made were the same, but not to my face. I was tempted to call them back and tell them the truth, however since I have been no-contact with my STBX, including blocking phone calls etc, I wasn’t sure if speaking with he parents would violate that rule in the sense that she might see it as some sort of defacto communication/contact with her on some level. Plus, given what they said on voicemail, I wasn’t sure that speaking with them would do much good, given what I imagine (granted, I’m imagining, don’t know 100%, what she has told them). This may be off topic
            for this particular post, but does no-contact typically extend to in-laws etc
            as a good course of
            action if a person is dealing with a true NPD? I care about my STBX-in laws, but don’t think that the benefit would outweigh the potential for drama, so have avoided contact.

  6. melove54
    November 3, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Comparitively speaking, it is rare that a man receive alimony. This article though is another example of the times where the double standard applies where it concerns many women. Entitlement to what the man has despite the equality women have so desperately sought over the recent decades. It’s like I previously posted, it’s not about what is fair, equitable, and mutual, it’s about what makes the courts, law, and its entities continue to flourish and/or maintain financial continuity. Ideas that make sense, that are logical and rational, that could benefit the public, are theatening to law makers. They’re seen by a majority of the public as incapable of creating viable environments for the people through law. They act as though we are not savvy enough to discern what justice truly entails. Law makers are given the latitude to use personal judgement where it shouldn’t be allowed. Prime example was in this article regarding this 25 year divorce and employing alimony even after her remarriage. People!, how transparent is the wrong in this decision?! Yet, the logic was “circumstantial” in this judges eyes, and therefore made sense to him??

    Judges too enjoy good competition and debates between attorney’s. My X-N was a highly skilled litigator in the family court system. It was her stage, a place to act out the skills of her NPD. Judges can be swayed easily despite the right or wrong of a given case, it’s simply who impresses him/her the most with the best presentation of the case. My X-N would state how brilliant she was when winning a case, and that the odds of winning were against her client, in reality. Her goal, as with most lawyers, is to win, to manipulate the truth despite what is just, fair and mutually equitable. When she lost (recalling only a couple of cases in 5 years) it was devistating to her!

    These defenders of law openly admit the system doesn’t work and simply accept it, because it’s the only system we have, that’s life, and we all have to deal with it! The road is always paved with good intentions, then greed takes the front row seat long term. In essence, this fraternity of lawyers, judges, and related entities of law support one another rather than being servants of the public. They scratch each others back and use law as a tool to benefit themselves and their “brothers” alike. I’ve had the opportunity to associate with many of my x-n’s colleagues at parties, tailgates, etc. and it’s sickening to hear their spew, especially after they indulge in a few drinks. For many of them, there were definate signs of alcohol related problems. As well, attorney’s and judges are inclined to have high narcissistic tendencies, partially due to their law school training. Politicians have the same propensity to be narcissistic as many were lawyers themselves. Sadly enough too, the generation of young people today are becoming more narcissitic, their sense of entitlement is out of control. That’s why sites like Dr. T’s raise the awareness of our world’s dilemma. It’s like a plague, an epidemic, and we must innoculate those that are consciously and unconsciouly destroying the fiber of human morals and ethics. The rise and fall of history’s greatest societies were pretensed on wealth and greed. Here we are today, history repeating itself.

  7. melove54
    November 3, 2009 at 4:25 am

    You can look up on-line, state statutes in the respective state you both reside regarding alimony. Just plug-in key word “alimony” on the statute site and you should find what you need. Then of course, seek a consultation with a good local family law attorney to know where you truly stand. It’s always good to do some homework before the consultation for the sake of intelligent and informed conversation.

  8. Paid too Long!
    November 3, 2009 at 3:13 am

    I was divorced in 1994 after 25 yrs of marriage. I retired from the military in 1995 so mine is a military divorce. I am trying to drop the alimony payments to my ex who has remarried. The state of divorce was North Carolina; however, we both live in the state of Ohio now. I,too, feel the remarriage should end this payment. I have sent letters to her regarding this matter and have received no response from her. I am considering stopping the alloment to her on my own. Can you advise me of any organizations in either of these states that I can contact for assistance or points of contact to see that this issue is resolved. This should be a dead issue once the ex-spouse remarries. Please help point me in the right direction.

    • Eagle
      December 3, 2009 at 5:56 am

      I would quit paying immediately. Wish I were that lucky.

  9. Bunker Dweller
    November 3, 2009 at 1:08 am

    The separation agreement protects you against alimony because, at least in my case, it explicitly states that she won’t get any. *goes back in cave to retrieve folder* It says, “Both named parties hereby wave all right to the other’s future earnings and estate and release to the other any property not already mentioned in this document.”


    • Nick
      November 5, 2009 at 5:52 pm

      I knew a guy whose wife moved to Washington State, while they “worked it out” She did this to establish residency. That way he became liable for child support for the time frame of 8 years of college for each of his kids!

  10. Bunker Dweller
    November 3, 2009 at 12:34 am

    You are all missing one key point here. Escaping from a crazy woman is all about strategy and tactics. If you plunge headlong into divorce, you’re being stupid. That sets off all her alarms and lets her know that the worst case scenario has arrived. She’ll pull out all the stops and probably get vindictive and hate you for the rest of your life. You don’t want that, trust me.

    Instead, do it by baby steps. Confront her on one of her unreasonable behaviors. In my case, my wife would always shout me down when I disagreed with her. I decided I had nothing to lose, so one day I let her shout and calmly said that it wouldn’t work this time. She continued and continued, giving me a bullet-proof reason to leave.

    Once I had left, she realized how badly she had behaved and wanted to get me back, and the initiative was mine. Here’s where you make your key move. I told her I wanted a separation agreement as the beginning of our reconciliation process, and she gladly signed it. At the time we signed, I was hoping for a miracle, and I was not sure I wanted a divorce. It was a “just in case” thing because of all the wacky stuff people can do. As soon as the ink was dry, I had life-long lifelong protection against this alimony nonsense and countless other legal nightmares.

    Look into separation agreements. They’re a way to avoid this trap.

    • shrink4men
      November 3, 2009 at 12:37 am

      Hey Bunker Dweller,

      How goes it in “The No Contact Zone?” Very smart. How does a separation agreement protect you from her pursuing crazy alimony after you sue for divorce?

      Also, is this different in every state?

      Dr T

    • Nick
      November 5, 2009 at 5:48 pm

      I also had a “just in case” separation agreement. Worked like a charm.

    • Recovering Alpha
      November 7, 2009 at 8:50 pm


      Love that pseudonym!! Haven’t laughed that hard in weeks. Nails so much of what’s just under the (conscious) table in all these discussions. I absolutely loved my “bunker” (study/library in my old home — when still living in my house with my ex, it was my only thread to sanity). Men going into their “cave” (bunker — and can be figuratively of course) is part of who we are! But it often freaks out women.

      By chance did you read “Men Are From Mars, Women From Venus”? That book talks about men going into their cave. If I recall correctly (it’s been years since I read that), the book suggests that perhaps alcoholic men are prevented from going into their cave by their (BPD/NPD?) wives and therefore turn to alcohol as their “cave”.

  11. dave
    November 2, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Thanks Dr. T!
    This has been a great read & eyeopening as well. I had no idea that alimony was forever with no time limit; it’s definitely time for some law revisions.

    • melove54
      November 3, 2009 at 12:41 am

      In the state of Florida, alimony is only enforceable until such time the person receiving the alimony remarries. Once a new marriage is consumated, it no longer applies. I would think that most state laws are the same. I can’t imagine alimony continuing once a person remarries.

  12. GM Shouki
    November 2, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    While the WSJ article highlights a few of the cases in states with archaic alimony laws, there are many more as can be viewed in Massachusetts at http://www.massalimonyreform.com. While you indicate that legislation can be changed by hiring lobbyists and voting in legislators who will bring change, this is not so easily accomplished. First, lobbyists cost a fortune and in states like Massachusetts, the various Bar associations (with deep deep pockets)have a vested interest in perpetuating vague alimony laws which in turn perpetuate more and longer litigation (and more money for the lawyers). In fact the Co-Chair of the Mass. Judiciary is a matrimonial lawyer who supports more judicial discretion (adding duration to the existing lousy laws in MA)which does little to solve the problem we have here. She is against Mass HR1785 which provides guidelines about alimony limits and motivates divorced spouses to get back on their feet and make a life for themselves. Secondly, how does one know whether a legislator is for or against alimony reform when they run for office since it is not a partisan issue and is not an issue that most people consider when electing their gov’t officials. At any rate its great that intelligent people with common sense such as yourself see the light. We need to revise our perception of the American women who is fully capable of working and being successful in the marketplace rather than living off the man she probably despises.

    • shrink4men
      November 2, 2009 at 11:00 pm

      Thanks for reading and posting a comment, GM.

      I’ve tried Googling a list of links for alimony reform organizations in each state and can’t find a directory. Do you know of one you can refer me to?

      Dr Tara

  13. Rod Van-Zeller
    November 2, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    I had two divorces already,lost a house and a lot of money,I never wanted kids this world is not a nice place.That is why a say no wife no kids no problems.
    The majority of the voters are women the family law judges are voted in or apointed ,if they are not pro female they dont get the job.
    Marriage strike is the only option for men.

    • shrink4men
      November 2, 2009 at 8:10 pm

      Hi Rod,

      Sorry to read about your two divorces. I can only imagine how awful that must have been.

      Marriage strike isn’t the only option. Everyone who thinks these laws are unfair has the option of organizing themselves into their own political voice, hiring their own lobbyists and voting in people who will create/change more just legislation.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr Tara

    • Nick
      November 5, 2009 at 5:45 pm

      Rod…I’m with you on this one. Marriage is fine, provided our life spans be 200 years. That way, it would be possible to financially recover. We 40/50 somethings DO NOT necessarily have time to get back on top.

  14. shrink4men
    November 2, 2009 at 6:18 pm


    I was raised to believe that nobody owes me anything. I don’t think a man or a woman should be on the hook financially to his or her ex after a divorce for an extended period of time. This is absolutely absurd.

    So a person makes a poor choice and marries the wrong person and later wants to end the relationship—why does that make your former spouse your responsibility for the rest of your life or until he or she remarries?

    Even more ridiculous is the incomprehensible demand to receive support in the amount that maintains the “marital lifestyle.” Logically this isn’t possible. After a divorce, there are two households, not one, so you can’t realistically do it. Well, you can if you impoverish the husband.

    Just because you once had a relationship with someone does not entitle you to a piece of them forever. By that token, the husband who forks over most of his income to maintain the ex-wife’s “marital lifestyle” should be awarded weekly housekeeping services, meals and conjugal visits by his ex-wife. Where’s his “marital lifestyle?”

    I believe the court system allows these financial injustices against men to continue because many of these women would be on welfare and/or unemployment if their exes weren’t paying them spousal support. Except that state money programs have built in time limits and other mechanisms by which they wean people off of the system and get them to stand on their own two feet.

    If you’re fired from a job, unemployment benefits don’t continue forever. If they did, there would be no incentive to look for work. Spousal support should have a time limit of no more than 2 years. And if the wife can’t find a job that maintains her “marital lifestyle,” guess what? She’s not married anymore, therefore, she’s entitled to the lifestyle she can earn on her own merit. Whether she’s an elementary education teacher, a nurse or an attorney.

    Let’s forget about gender for a moment and just consider what is fair and just.

    Kind Regards,
    Dr Tara

    • melove54
      November 2, 2009 at 6:20 pm

      Dr. T,

      I couldn’t agree with you more! As you probably remember, my X-N was a Family Law attorney, and the stories my X told me about some of these people she represented were simply unbelievable! Florida is also a “no-fault” state. IMO, this “no-fault” law is beyond “blind” justice, for the man is mostly the one to pay. “No fault” was primarily designed to shorten the average time of the dissolution process in the court system. It doesn’t work though because, modifications post dissolution still occur, therefore, costs and court time is literally the same as if “fault” existed.

      Let’s say for example, if a woman or man commits adultery, and this person makes the decision to no longer tolerate such acts of infidelity, and dissolution of the marriage is the answer, then the court has an obligation to determine reasonable, and mutual financial outcome. i.e., man was the infidel, he produces 80% of the income, then his spouse should receive a settlement amount(on a schedule like child support)and be responsible to a two year goal to attain education and improvement of her lifestyle. Once this period is up, no excuses,..it’s final, no mods,etc.! And of course, likewise for men who had a wife that substantially surpassed them in income. This again is determined upon “fault”, or even who wishes to dissolve the marriage, i.e., willingness/agreement to pay despite “fault.” You’re so on spot Dr. T, where it concerns most who feel they are obligated to be taken care of, when in reality, they are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. Happens way too often,
      and it defies the dissolution process itself!?

      The lifestyle for which one is accustomed is the most rediculous notion when households are split. The term “dissolution” is not taken as literally as it should, for the courts fail by further binding divorced couples through what is perceived as “due process.” It’s seems that many men and women alike believe, that divorce is predicated upon ones financial obligation, Vs, preservation of ones mental, emotional, and physical well being. Speaking only for myself, it was about the latter, I did not care about money! It was about my mental, emotional freedom,and to prioritize my overall well being. And I will say this for the umpteenth time, “if I am not mentally and physically sound, then I cannot provide for my children in the way they truly deserve.”

      The ties of children will always exist between divorced couples and maybe a mandantory “post-dissoulution class” would be beneficial for couples with children to understand what their true obligations are and teach them (with extreme impression) how to co-parent, to preserve the quality of life for their children first and foremost.

      It is unfortunate that adults can be so immature and selfish when going through a divorce(especially with NPD/BPD personalities.) To help circumvent such immaturity, the courts should also include in these classes, the ramifications of typical “bad behaviors”, such as, the need for restraining orders, limits of modifications,realities child custody,consequences of continued emotional, verbal and/or physical abuse, etc., then maybe they will begin to fear the law and move on with their lives. Unfortunately, law is not driven to benefit human kind, for greed, and preservation for the continuum of the financial survival of the law makers,law enforcement, lawyers, etc. is perceived to be more important for the system. Good ideas, ones that make sense, only deplete the flow of money needed for them to survive. That is where justice is most blind.

    • thom
      November 3, 2009 at 6:59 am

      I couldn’t agree more Dr T:)

    • Eagle
      December 3, 2009 at 6:10 am

      Wow! Common sense! I am in total agreement. There is only one problem: If these changes were made in the courts, the divorce rate would drop drastically, and more people would get married. People would actually put forth more effort in relationships and love each other. Sounds like what marriages were designed for.

  15. Steve
    November 2, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Get a good lawyer and arrange for a fair judge – if there is one in your county. I’m in divorce proceedings now and have no idea where it’s going re: alimony. Although the judge my lawyer is requesting has a policy of not awarding any alimony to women in normal circumstances so that their income exceeds her court reporters – about 28 – 30K. I’m hoping I get that one! Having said that I have no problem paying child support, although in my state it’s a negotiable point for children until 21 or until they are thru with college! So even though my son lives on campus (room and board that I pay) and is home maybe a few weeks a year, I will pay child support for him. I’m trying to get that negotiated to paying his college expenses. And, actually, I’m more than willing to pay some alimony for a few years. But none of this lifetime stuff. That’s ridiculous. My wife claims to have sacrificed her career but did nothing of the kind. The kids were in school full time for 7 years before she even got a part time job. I found out that she had told her girlfriends, “I dont’ wanna work and I don’t have to.” Gee, thanks a lot. Good luck.

  16. Rod Van-Zeller
    November 2, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    my policy works best,no wife no kids no problems.

    • shrink4men
      November 2, 2009 at 3:48 pm

      That’s great for you, Rod, but cold comfort for the great majority of men who are embroiled in the insanity of family court and unreasonable, indefinite spousal support.

      I’m not not married nor do I have children, but I still bristle at and want to change systems that harm so many—just like I want change in the finance sector and health care. I’m tired of predatory systems as a whole. Enough is enough.

      • Eagle
        December 3, 2009 at 5:49 am

        Amen! If you know of any ways to change these courts, (lawyers getting rich off of divorces, men’s lives being financially ruined), I am all ears. I would be greatly interested in spending my time & resources to change this cruel system.

  17. George
    November 2, 2009 at 3:59 am

    Other than get the laws changed, is there any practical advice for protecting yourself from this? (other than not get married) I’m in the process of divorcing my wife right now. In addition to being a BPD, she has refused to get a job for years, even after my child was in school full time. It was a constant source of frustration. She didn’t sacrafice her career. She just wanted a free ride. I’ve heard that if you are persistent, you can eventually get alimony turned off. Has anyone out there had any success with this? What strategies seemed to work best?

    • Eagle
      December 3, 2009 at 5:35 am

      Good luck. I had a similar situation, and now have to pay huge alimony payments for many years. Divorce was “final” 2 years ago, and am still fighting in court to keep my paycheck. Hire the best lawyer you can is my advice. My ex got a free ride for years, had affairs, would not work, and eventually moved out, and still gets a free ride. Check with your lawyer for the laws in your state. A lot depends on how long you were married, your income, her income, and lots of other factors. Get ready to pay lots of legal fees, and also possibly paying her legal fees too. Divorce really sucks! I will never marry again. Why is divorce expensive? Because it’s worth it.

  18. Recovering Alpha
    November 1, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    I’m sorry to say, but just like I encourage my 4 boys to go to college because it is in their best interest, I also will encourage them to not get married but instead go the NQW (Not Quite Wife) route.

    • shrink4men
      November 2, 2009 at 12:22 am

      Hi Recovering Alpha,

      I’d reconsider having your sons go to college. Have you looked at the new numbers on student loan debt and the low salaries/lack of job market new grads face? Read this article in The Atlantic: http://business.theatlantic.com/2009/10/student_loans_and_payback_time.php

      As for marriage, it can be if you choose well, are both committed to working on the relationship and don’t have pathology that precludes having a loving healthy relationship.

      My mother waived her right to alimony and child support because she had her own business and was able to support the two of us just fine. She had to pay my father off (who had contributed nothing to her business), so he wouldn’t try to take a piece of it in the divorce. One of my aunts did basically the same thing when she divorced. She had more education and was capable of standing on her own two feet. I’m sure there are many other women out there who are like my mother and aunt, which makes the outrageously entitled, rapacious and insatiably greedy ones even more difficult to stomach.

      The alimony horror stories you read or here about are what happens when you combine entitlement with an “all you can eat buffet” mentality that the family court system and many attorneys hold forth.

      I read through the comments on WSJ, too. The comments in favor of reforming these laws far outnumber the one reader. Interesting.

      Let’s just hope people start voting in leaders who will make these reforms. Too many people in this world complain without ever taking action.

      Still, one lives in hope.

      Dr T

      • Mary
        November 2, 2009 at 3:23 pm

        “My mother waived her right to alimony and child support because she had her own business and was able to support the two of us just fine.”

        I can understand a woman waiving her right for alimony, but not child support. At the time of my divorce, (I am a woman) I was not working. Contrary to what some may think, I did sacrifice part of my career in what I felt was the best interest of my children. However, I loved my job, and did wish to return at some point. My divorce was final the year before my youngest started kindergarten. Rather than put her in childcare and return to work then (which is what my ex-husband wanted), I did ask for a year’s worth of alimony to pay the bills. I felt the divorce had traumatized the children enough. The courts agreed to this. However, I did want to get back on my feet ASAP, because my pride kept me from wanting to be dependant upon my ex-husband.

        On the other hand, I had no qualms about accepting child support. I felt that it was and is their father’s duty to provide for his daughters. To refuse child support would be denying my children from what is rightfully theirs. I know the focus of this blog is on women and the problems they inflict on men, but let’s not forget that all men are not innocent either. Too many men feel that after divorce they no longer have responsibilities. While I wholeheartedly agree that the man should no longer support his ex-spouse, the children should be the responsibility of both parents.

        • shrink4men
          November 2, 2009 at 3:32 pm

          Hi Mary,

          Alimony and child support are two completely separate things. My mother knew my father would play games with providing the money, so rather than get embroiled in the system, she opted out. Fortunately for us, her business was successful and she didn’t need his money.

          Just as you say there are many men who feel they no longer have responsibilities after they divorce, there are many women who spend a significant amount of the child support monies they receive on themselves and not their children. A father has a responsibility to his children after a divorce, of course he does, but I think his responsibility toward his wife stops at being a good co-parent.

          Dr Tara

      • Recovering Alpha
        November 2, 2009 at 5:23 pm

        1. I absolutely love his site and your no BS style of comments.

        2. I agree college for most degrees isn’t cost effective. Getting an advanced degree in sciences, for example (I know this one personally), only just breaks even decades later (due to opportunity cost of lost income while getting the degree as well as actual cost). However, I personally went to college for the love of the subject and for WHAT DISCIPLINED STUDY DOES TO ME. One of my favorite sayings I tell my sons is: “I went to college to make the inside of my head an interesting place to spend the rest of my life.” (Plus I paid as I went, actually working a few years between BS, MS, and PhD to never acquire much debt.) Just my take …

        3. Your personal & family member’s experiences do give me hope. I must say at deepest core of my being (one my favorite movies is “Dr Zhivago” — a romantic if one ever made), I’d like to be able to marry again. But the odds scare me. 55% divorce rate first marriage, 65-70% DR second marriage, and so on.

        Hopefully yours,

  19. Recovering Alpha
    November 1, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    Great article. Also recommended is reading the comments on the article at WSJ (follow the link Dr T provided at top of page and when in WSJ domain click on “Comments” tab). The following, lifted from that “Comments” section written by a one ‘Peter Umapp’, is OBSERVED DATA which is the heart of scientific inquiry; one can discuss the meaning of it, but the data ‘is what it is’:

    In an era when women file 70% of divorces and where men pay 97% of the alimony, you would have to be a suicidal maniac to get married.

    It seems that young men have been paying attention. Rutgers University Marriage Study, which has compiled 50+ years of marriage/divorce data, has been documenting a steady slide in new-marriage rates starting around 1970. That’s when these crazy lifetime-alimony and no-fault-alimony (that’s where you get alimony even when you get caught cheating) laws got cooked up. See what it has done to our national marriage rates:

    FIGURE 1
    Number of Marriages per 1,000
    Unmarried Women Age 15 and
    Older, by Year, United States:

    1968 79.1
    1969 80.0
    1970 76.5
    1972 77.9
    1975 66.9
    1977 63.6
    1980 61.4
    1983 59.9
    1985 56.2
    1987 55.7
    1990 54.5
    1991 54.2
    1992 53.3
    1993 52.3
    1995 50.8
    2000 46.5
    2004 39.9

    It is Adam Smith’s invisible hand at work. If you make something dangerous to one’s well being, then people will avoid it. After seeing what has happened to their fathers, uncles, and older brothers, more and more men are voting with their feet.

    • Recovering Alpha
      November 1, 2009 at 11:55 pm

      Being at work on weekend, couldn’t resist putting in numbers into a statistical analysis package for linear regression: Rsquared=95.7% and slope=-1.04%/year. Pretty strong correlation indicators. This means that assuming that same trend the past 5 years, then 2010 (today) marriage rate should be thereabouts 34%.

      • Recovering Alpha
        November 2, 2009 at 5:14 pm

        Whoops. I committed a technical error here. Sorry. The numbers are NOT percentages. They are “number of marriages per 1000 unmarried women aged 15 up”. This means that 39.9/1000 * 100% is 3.99% of those women marry in the year 2004 AD. So the addendum is “slope=-1.04#/year”.

    • Nick
      November 5, 2009 at 5:24 pm

      Another statistic that should make people RUN! Second marriages have an 80% failure rate. So…when you walk down the isle with that BPD/NPD man or woman..who has been married before………holy crap!

  20. Puma
    November 1, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    If she’s “accustomed” to a few things from the old marriage (i.e. cash), isn’t he allowed to be accustomed to a few things himself? (i.e. cooking, cleaning, companionship). The law should be made equal in that you either have two-way alimony, or no alimony.

    If an ex-spouse wants to continue receiving cash from the ex-husband, she should be ordered to provide a little something-something herself for him every month. Why is alimony one-way?

    • shrink4men
      November 1, 2009 at 10:10 pm

      Great question, Puma, and one I’ve asked more than once.

      Many women claim they “sacrificed their careers” to be stay-at-home mom’s. Meanwhile, once the kids were in school full-time did nothing to resume their respective careers—even at their husband’s insistence. Doesn’t seem like a sacrifice to me; it seems like this particular group of women simply don’t want to work.

      Therefore, why isn’t the husband entitled to housekeeping duties by his ex (that’s if she ever really did any) as part of his alimony? If you suggest this to divorcees they’d be up in arms and protest, “I stopped having to take care of him once I signed the divorce papers!” To which I’d say, “My point exactly.”

      Dr T

      • Phil
        November 11, 2009 at 4:57 am

        Very true, my wife told me “I’ll never work as long as I’m married to you.” This is the same woman who tells me that: 1. she’s wasted her life being married to me. 2. I’m a lousy husband/father. 3. I’m a workaholic “a bad one too! 4. She has no friends and tells me I suck up to everyone just so they will like me. I cannot remember the last time she gave me a compliment.

        December 24, 2009 at 7:04 am

        Glad I insisted my BPD wife worked. Otherwise I’d be screwed right now going through divorce. This is a travesty and just plain wrong. She wants to sit on her ass. (And she didn’t do any cleaning becausse I paid a maid to come in every other week) And…I only had sex at least once a month! Complete opposite from when we met. All about control.

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