States vary on their approaches to alimony or spousal support. Some states permit ongoing, long-term alimony to provide for the lower-income spouse, while others prefer an approach that encourages reaching self-sustenance. In extreme cases, like the one in which a man was recently jailed because he could not pay alimony, the law could be said to fail both parties.
The man in this case, who divorced his wife of 11 years in 2011, was reportedly ordered by the courts to make alimony payments that were more than his actual income. When he failed to make the payments, he was jailed. As a result of his imprisonment, the man has reportedly lost his job, and his ex-wife, who is disabled, is receiving no financial support at all.
Several groups in that state, New Jersey, are lobbying to change the state's alimony laws, which permit permanent alimony and give judges a good deal of discretion. These groups argue that the laws, which were written decades ago when most women were not working outside of the home, need to be changed to reflect today's society.
Here in Arizona, judges are empowered to consider all of the important factors to come to a fair spousal maintenance determination. These factors include the standard of living during marriage, the financial resources of each spouse and the earning ability of each spouse, among others.
There is no one right way to make the determination, and a good judge will view each case individually to come to a just decision. It is often wise to work with legal counsel to ensure that an alimony agreement can be reached that is reasonable and sustainable.
Source: nj.com, "Man sits in jail while unable to pay alimony that exceeds his income," Lillian Shupe, Dec. 7, 2012