How Long Is Too Long for Alimony?

For some ladies (and many men, too), the free ride they have enjoyed as part of lifetime alimony in Massachusetts may soon end. And not a moment too soon. There are women who are still collecting alimony from short marriages that ended decades ago. Does that seem fair to anyone?

A recent Boston Globe piece spoke of Steve Niro whose five-year marriage ended 30 years ago. With children who no longer required child support, his ex-wife asked the court to up her alimony from $65 a week to $700 a week and she won. Niro told the Globe:

I could be paying alimony for the rest of my life for a 4 1/2-year marriage when I was a kid. It's just unfair.

Unfair is exactly what it is. It's also unfair to women and the men who take alimony, too. After all, what is the system suggesting when they award a woman 30 years out of a short marriage more alimony? In those three decades, she never learned to fend for herself?


Alimony is a great way for a woman who devoted herself to her marriage to get back on her feet and live at that standard of living until she can figure out her own life. It could take a few years, it's true. But not 30 and not after a five-year marriage.

The new law proposed in Massachusetts would end lifetime alimony payments in most cases and cap amounts of alimony. In marriages of five years or less, the spouse paying alimony would only have to do so for the length of half the marriage, which seems totally reasonable.

For marriages over 15 years, the maximum alimony term would be 80 percent of the months of marriage. For most long-term marriages of more than 20 years, alimony would end at retirement age.

That seems much more reasonable. It cuts both ways, too. A woman paying alimony to a man would likely not like for it to exceed a certain amount of money, especially given remarriages and new families and everything that entails. At a certain point, when a marriage ends, it's over and even if you married the richest person in the world, it becomes unfair to continue to take his or her money.

Isn't that the whole point of divorce? Being broken up, being two individuals again? Alimony is a great way to get back on one's feet, but it never should be something one expects to supplement their income in perpetuity.

Do you think "lifetime alimony" is weird?


Image via yomanimus/Flickr

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