Alimony dates back centuries. The original idea was that once married, a man is responsible for a woman till death. But that notion has shifted in recent decades, as more women have jobs and their own money. Now, a number of states are considering laws to end lifetime alimony.
During his two-decade marriage, Tom Leustek’s wife earned a Ph.D. and landed a job that paid as much as his. He’s a college professor in New Jersey.
But she quit to start her own psychology practice, and her salary plummeted. Then they split. Leustek says he was astonished when a judge ordered him to pay lifetime alimony, despite his wife’s clear earning potential.
“When the judge told me at one point, ‘It’s not fair, Mr. Leustek; it’s the law,’ I decided something had to be done about it,” he says.
Leustek heads New Jersey Alimony Reform, one of a dozen groups taking their cue from Massachusetts. A law that went into effect there last year sets up formulas limiting alimony based on the length of a marriage. Leustek says a similar proposal in New Jersey would also end alimony when the payer reaches retirement age.