Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lifetime Alimony Was Never Intended To Be That Way

In Florida, as early as in 1955, there was a court case of KAHN v. KAHN, 78 So.2d 367 (Fla. 1955) where the Florida Supreme Court held that alimony was not supposed to last forever.

In Kahn, it states that:
"Since its original enactment in 1828, our statute has authorized the Chancellor to make such allowance for alimony to the wife "as from the circumstances of the parties and nature of the case may be fit, equitable and just; * * *." Section 65.08, Fla. Stat., F.S.A. The wife's need and the husband's ability to pay was at an early date established as the criterion by which to determine what alimony, if any, was to be awarded the wife. See Jacobs v. Jacobs, Fla. 1951, 50 So.2d 169, and cases there cited. Thus, there was no need for alimony on the part of the wife if she had a separate estate "adequate to her comfortable support." Chaires v. Chaires, 1864, 10 Fla. 308, 315, citing Bright, on Husband and Wife, p. 359.

Ordinarily, however, in those days the husband was the "only hope of support" of an "unfortunate wife, who may have been abandoned by a dissolute husband and doomed to drag out a weary existence in married widowhood. * * *" Chaires v. Chaires, supra. And, indeed, until recent years, a divorced wife had little prospect of being able to work and earn a livelihood, and it was essential to a well-ordered society that she be appropriately maintained by her estranged husband so that she would not become a charge on the community.

Times have now changed. The broad, practically unlimited opportunities for women in the business world of today are a matter of common knowledge. Thus, in an era where the opportunities for self-support by the wife are so abundant, the fact that the marriage has been brought to an end because of the fault of the husband does not necessarily entitle the wife to be forever supported by a former husband who has little, if any, more economic advantages than she has.

We do not construe the marriage status, once achieved, as conferring on the former wife of a ship-wrecked marriage the right to live a life of veritable ease with no effort and little incentive on her part to apply such talent as she may possess to making her own way."
Justice Farmer, of the Idaho Supreme Court, carried this theme forward back in 1976, in the case of OLSEN v. OLSEN, 98 Idaho 10 (1976), when, in his dissent, he stated:
"Secondly, I believe that the facts of the instant case emphasize the need for re-examination of the entire concept of alimony and the continuing viability of that concept in contemporary society. Put in different words, the question facing the Court is whether a judicially imposed system of involuntary servitude is to be continued wherein one human being is placed in bondage to another for what is effectively the remainder of his natural life." [Emphasis added]
[Both entire case citations can be found by clicking here.]

Learn how you can change your alimony payments by clicking here.