Alimony Reform Update: Is Alimony Unconstitutional?

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Alimony on Wednesday, December 18, 2013.

People don’t like paying alimony. I’m not being sarcastic. Alimony can be a tax deduction, so you could end up paying your Ex less support overall. But, the tax advantage is often outweighed by the perceived injustice; hence the move to reform alimony. A new reform front has opened in Connecticut, where four guys are trying to have alimony laws declared unconstitutional.

Florida’s alimony reform movement is different, and has focused on trying to amend the law in the legislature. Last year they tried to pass a bill eliminating permanent alimony, but Governor Scott vetoed it. They are trying again next session. The Connecticut battle is different.

According to Courthouse News Service, a nationwide news service for lawyers, four Connecticut ex-husbands are suing their governor to have alimony laws declared unconstitutional:

Alimony is an historical anachronism, a remnant from an earlier legal era when the rights of women vis-à-vis their husbands, and in society in general, were radically different than they are today.

Connecticut’s alimony scheme is unconstitutionally vague, giving no notice to citizens contemplating marriage or divorce what fate may befall them in a divorce proceeding. The Legislature, by failing among other things even to identify the purpose or aim or alimony, has delegated basic policy decisions to the judiciary without any meaningful guidance.

The Ex-Husbands claim that in no area of law other than family relations does Connecticut give a civil litigant the ability to use penal remedies to enforce a money judgment.

There is some precedent for calling alimony laws unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court in Orr v. Orr declared Alabama’s alimony statute unconstitutional in 1979, because it only imposed alimony obligations on men not on women, violating the equal protection clause.

Alimony payments can be a good thing for a couple too. Alimony is treated differently than child support in our tax code. If you receive alimony due to a divorce, it is taxable and must be reported on your tax return. The alimony payer can also claim the alimony as a tax deduction, as long as the payments meet code requirements.

It is not uncommon to have child support payments reclassified as alimony – especially in high income earning families – so that the payee spouse gets more money in alimony, the payer spouse get a large tax deduction, and more money is available for everyone.

Although it seems counterintuitive, paying alimony can sometimes be in your financial best interest. Chipping away at this financial freedom for parents may be too much reform. Alimony reform is underway in many states, and Florida is one of them.