781.708.4445

wmlevine@levinedisputeresolution.com

Divorce Mediation Blog

When Alimony Meets Federalism

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Recently, Bill Levine of LDRC taught at the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers’ (AAML) 21st Matrimonial Arbitration Institute, a training program for 52 family law specialists from 13 states, in Chicago, Ill. During the program, participants received a fact pattern for a pending divorce case involving property distribution and alimony issues, to be resolved by the student-arbitrators, each in a written “award”, or arbitration decision. The faculty reviewed and critiqued the submissions as the attendees completed their course requirements.

The exercise revealed a fascinating diversity of alimony outcomes. Spousal support, maintenance or alimony (as it is known in different states) is strictly a creature of state law. We in Massachusetts are in the second year of adapting to comprehensive alimony “reform”, just now approaching the first appellate decisions that will shape the 2011 statute (eff. 3/1/12) for years to come. From an outcome perspective, it appears that we fall in the middle of a very broad national range.

Simplified, the fact pattern was: a husband with earnings of $150,000 per year and a wife with a $24,000 annual salary, at the end of a 20-year plus marriage. Both parties were in their mid-40’s. Fairly predictably, in Massachusetts, the Husband would pay alimony of $40-45,000 per year, for 16 years, or for an indefinite durational term. Contrast that with the outer range of outcomes that we saw in Chicago: from $60,000+ per year with no fixed duration to $12,000 annually for a fixed term of five years. We assume, given the nature of this group, that each attendee’s award fairly reflected a sophisticated understanding practice in the writer’s jurisdiction.

We are used to hearing about polarization between “red states” and “blue states” on the gamut of political, economic and social issues in 21st century America, but we don’t hear much about the “alimony gap”. No doubt, this is partly driven by disparate regional costs of living, but there must be more at work here. Federalism produces other stark family law differences such as child support approaches and sums, emancipation ages, mandated or no required participation in college costs and health insurance obligations, but none more dramatic that this apparent spousal support chasm.

One more sign of a Balkanizing America?



Get e-mail notifications of new blog posts! Enter email address below.:



Delivered by FeedBurner

other articles


recent posts


tags

how baseball arbitration works divorce and family law private dispute resolution high-risk methodology Uniform Arbitration Act Boston Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act Baseball Players family law mediation Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly health coverage resolve disputes Levine Dispute Resolution disputes Baseball Arbitration mediators med/arb arbitration Massachusetts fraud divorce arbitrator Massachusetts lawyers MLB labor agreement alimony statute separation Family Law Arbitration health insurance mediation Child Support Guidelines dispute resolution family mediation divorce agreement family support divorce mediation Massachusetts divorce mediators med-arb alimony reform legislation divorce judgment Chouteau Levine Major League Baseball Arbitration alimony divorced pre-ARA alimony annulment medical benefits rehabilitative alimony lawyer-attended mediation divorce mediator SJC Defense of Marriage Act Obamacare General term alimony Massachusetts alimony and child support Baseball traditional negotiations family and probate law disputes divorce arbitrators Divorce special master Levine Dispute Resolution Center Matrimonial Arbitration family law mediator Act Reforming Alimony in the Commonwealth Alimony Reform Act self-adjusting alimony Levine Dispute Resolutions DOMA alimony orders LDRC divorce arbitration lawyer child support divorce mediations divorce and family law mediators Massachusetts alimony support orders litigation mediations COLA Levine Dispute Resolution Center LLC alimony law conciliation Self-adjusting alimony orders family law arbitrators IRC §2704 facilitated negotiations Massachusetts divorce lawyers divorce litigation Same Sex Marriage divorce mediators divorce lawyers The Seven Sins of Alimony lawyers Cohabitation arbitrators Divorce Agreements arbitrator family law arbitrator divorce process