Fairfax, VA (Law Firm Newswire) May 23, 2017 – Over 35 years ago, Virginia adopted permanent alimony, or spousal support. Under Virginia statute 20-61, a spouse who receives alimony can prosecute a paying spouse who is unable to pay, thus compelling them to pay attorney fees. Furthermore, the courts can legally impose fines on paying spouses and sentence them to prison for up to one year. Virginia pays $168,000 for the confinement of an individual for one year.
Prominent Vienna, Virginia family law attorney Lisa McDevitt states, “The rationale behind alimony is that the spouse who has less earning capacity should receive financial help from the payor spouse in order to become economically self-sufficient.”
Recently, however, Massachusetts has voted to terminate alimony at retirement age. The decision was made following a determination by a Massachusetts Family Court judge that an 84-year-old man had to continue paying alimony, which made him financially unable to retire. The decision of the judge motivated the state of Massachusetts to cast a unanimous vote to terminate alimony at retirement age.
Florida has also been trying to end permanent alimony. The state has voted unanimously three times to end alimony at retirement age. However, Governor Rick Scott refuses to sign the legislation. He says that family law issues are very personal, and that almost every family arrives at the courthouse with a different set of circumstances and needs. Therefore, he says the state must be more sensible, and cautiously take into account the long-term implications for Florida families.
According to a Florida resident, Tarie MacMillan, age 65, signing the bill would be a major step toward a fair and just outcome with respect to ending permanent alimony in the state. MacMillan said she has been paying alimony to her ex-husband for 16 years. They were married for 13 years.
Similarly to Massachusetts and Florida, Virginia did not adopt one of the changes in conditions, namely, the ability of the payor spouse to continue to pay. If Virginia statute 20-109 is modified, permanent alimony could end at retirement age.
Alimony is not intended to punish a spouse who may have caused the downfall of a marriage. Rather, its objective is to help one spouse avoid financial adversity. The purpose of alimony is for rehabilitation in helping a spouse become financially independent after having spent years foregoing the pursuit of a career in favor of marriage and raising children.
Lisa Lane McDevitt
2155 Bonaventure Drive
Vienna, VA 22181