The subject of alimony, or spousal support, can be a divisive one. Some see these legal obligations requiring one former spouse to pay the other as dated, while others believe the term should be shortened. So far, it looks like they’re here to stay.
Ancient Babylon, Ecclesiastical Courts, and Fault-Based Divorces
The history of alimony in the United States begins with the Code of Hammurabi. This ancient Babylonian code set rules regarding marriage and its dissolution. It ruled that if a couple were to divorce, the husband would need to return his dowry, give his ex-wife custody of the children, and provide her with an allowance to be used for her and their children. For couples without children, the husband would still need to return the dowry and pay her the equivalent of a “bride price.” A bride price was the amount of money or property a woman’s parents were paid so they’d grant permission for her to be married.
As time went on, the ideas of divorce and alimony evolved. During the days of the Church of England’s ecclesiastical courts, divorce was not possible for couples. Instead they could be legally separated. Even though couples were still technically married, husbands who were legally separated from their wives were required to make alimony payments to their spouses. As British colonists arrived in America, they brought along their concept of alimony.
Following the Revolutionary War, the United States used British law as a framework in creating their own divorce laws. For a long-time during US history, divorce was completely fault-based. In order for a marriage to end, it needed to be someone’s fault and proof needed to be provided.
- Did a spouse cheat?
- Was a spouse abusive?
- Did one of the spouses abandon the other for a certain length of time?
- Was a spouse sent to prison?
If the court found that the marriage ended due to something the husband had done, he would often be ordered to pay his ex-wife alimony. At this time, women didn’t have many rights or ways to support themselves without a husband, so alimony was a way to help.
No-Fault Divorce To Present Day
The late 20th century brought many changes to divorce law and women’s rights. Women were entering the workplace, bringing their own income into the home. In 1970, California introduced the “no-fault” divorce, making it easier for incompatible spouses to legally split. States during this time also began to ignore gender when awarding alimony to former spouses. Ex-husbands found themselves awarded alimony.
Nowadays, women are becoming the breadwinners in their marriages. And during divorce, more of them are finding themselves on the hook for spousal support and even child support. This evolution has evened out the playing field for both genders.
For more information on spousal support requirements in Arizona, contact Simon Law Group, PLLC. Our team is here to answer your questions and help you to better understand your rights.