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Ask Dr. Helen: Should Alimony Die a Quick Death?

The time for alimony as we know it may have passed, writes Dr. Helen Smith. "No man or woman should be held to being a slave to an ex-spouse after a marriage ends."

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December 19, 2007 - 1:05 am

by Helen Smith

An anonymous reader writes in:

Dear Dr. Helen,

I recently read your post about a man whose wife had killed their son and now she wants alimony while in prison! It seems you didn’t think this was a very good idea and I agree. But my real question to you is “what is your personal opinion of alimony–do you think it’s passé?”

Dear Anonymous Reader,

Good question. First, let me make clear that we are distinguishing alimony here from child support which is a whole different matter. Children have to be supported by someone and are in a different category than grown-ups who should be held responsible for their lives and their livelihood. I will discuss alimony only which is defined as “an allowance for support made under court order to a divorced person by the former spouse, usually the chief provider during the marriage. Alimony may also be granted without a divorce, as between legally separated persons.”

Personally, I have a hard time justifying long term alimony payments to men or women in today’s society. Years ago, when one spouse (typically women) was expected to stay home with the kids, tend the house and generally had no training or as many opportunities to make a living as women do today, I would say that alimony might have been more fair. However, in today’s world, in which women have fought for the right to equality, alimony seems more like a kid getting an allowance from daddy and I believe it should be abolished altogether except for extremely dire circumstances where a spouse is older, cannot work at all, and for only a short term period. No man or woman should be held to being a slave to an ex-spouse after a marriage ends. That said, if we are going to have alimony laws, I believe that men and women should be held to an equal standard under the law. But apparently, many women do not feel that equality holds when they are the ones who have to take responsibility.

In this Forbes article, women are angry about paying alimony:

A lot of women are indignant now that the shoe is increasingly on the other foot, says Carol Ann Wilson, a certified financial divorce practitioner in Boulder, Colo. “There’s this sense of, ‘What’s yours is ours, but what’s mine is mine,’” Wilson says. “My first response to that is, ‘All these years we have been looking for equality; well, this is what it looks like.’ I think women get angrier about having to pay than men do.”

Or take a look at what a couple of female commenters have to say when Kevin Federline asks Britney for more spousal support:

Do you believe this guy? Still asking for money. He is using the kids as big ticket items for his greed. The LAZY ASS! why don’t he get a job…..Kevin Fed…….LOSER!

this broke ass wants brittenys kids and more of her money???? what the hell. this lazy worthless piece oof shit nedds a fukin job. he wudnt even have a life without brittany

If Kevin was a woman, would we see this type of outrage? You might think K-Fed is a poser and a loser (and in a way, he is) but many men who have written to me say that they secretly find it satisfying that the shoe is on the other foot for a change and women are getting to experience what men have been dealing with for ages.

Men’s rights columnist Glenn Sacks points out another frustrated woman who got stuck paying alimony and set up a website called WomenPayingSupport.com whose motto is “Be a Man Among Men…Don’t Ask for Spousal Support.”

My motto? “Real men are champions of justice and don’t give in to manipulation from gender ‘feminists’ who want to have their cake and eat it too.” That’s not the way that equality works. If women don’t have to pay, then neither should men. People should learn to stand on their own two feet and take responsibility for their choices. I say abolish alimony altogether.

If alimony laws continue to hurt only men, nothing will change. But once women are affected in more and more numbers, there will be an outcry for change. As Tom Leykis, a nationally-syndicated talk show host stated, “The only way to abolish alimony is to make women pay it.” Only then will alimony laws be considered passé and dropped altogether except for extreme short term cases, as it should be.

What do you think–should alimony die a quick death, should it continue as is or change to somewhere in-between?

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If you have a question you would like answered, please leave it below or email me at askdrhelen@hotmail.com. Your questions may be edited for length and clarity. Please note that your first name only or no name at all will be used to identify your question-if you want me to use your name, tell me, otherwise you will be referred to by your first name or as “a reader” etc.

Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee and blogs at drhelen.blogspot.com. This advice column is for educational and entertainment purposes only and does not purport to replace therapy or psychological treatment.

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