The roles of husbands and wives have changed dramatically over the years. It's no longer assumed that women will stay home—they now make up almost half the workforce.

Is alimony little more than an ancient law, or is it still applicable today? Divorce lawyer Violet P. Woodhouse says the old law isn't going anywhere. "Do I think that alimony is going to change anytime soon? No."

To be clear, alimony is money that is paid by one spouse to another to help with costs of living. Whereas men were once typically the ones paying alimony, the sex of the spouse no longer matters. Woodhouse says alimony is determined by factors that vary from state to state. They include:

  • Length of marriage
  • Age of both spouses
  • Income and assets of both spouses
  • Health of both spouses
  • The need and ability to pay spousal support
Woodhouse says alimony is far from cut and dry. "I can't tell you how much you'll get—it's in the discretion of the court," she says.

Take this scenario: Married couple Joe and Jane decide to both continue working while raising their two children. Jane quits her job in favor of one that doesn't pay as much, but the hours are flexible so that she can pick up the kids and be home after school. After 15 years, Joe and Jane divorce, and Jane can no longer find work in her field. Should she receive alimony?

"The bottom line is, when you don't work and don't have formal employment for any significant length of time—even a year—you are largely irrelevant in the marketplace," Woodhouse says. "So that person is basically penalized for staying home. Rehabilitative alimony, if warranted, would be something a court might consider because of the loss of employability and the need to brush up on your skills."

However, Woodhouse says you shouldn't leave a scenario like that up to chance. Instead, she says to consider a prenuptial agreement.

To make sure your prenup is sound, Woodhouse says to bring it up to your fiancé as soon as possible. "Don't bring it up a week before the wedding," she says.

What are your thoughts on alimony? Leave your comments below.


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