At the end of this year’s legislative session VCW was placed on the new 8-member Spousal Support and Maintenance Task Force, created for the purpose of reviewing and making legislative recommendations to Vermont’s alimony laws. Task Force members include legislators, judges, family law attorneys, one representative from Vermont Alimony Reform and one from Vermont Commission on Women (VCW). As well as collecting research and information, VCW will present voices and stories of Vermont women on this issue.
As alimony is awarded in only 10% of all divorces in the United States, we know that this will be difficult to accomplish! That is why we are seeking help. We’re looking for women (nationally 97% of alimony recipients) who are willing to share their stories about receiving or paying alimony in their Vermont divorce:
- Maybe they put their spouse through medical school or law school.
- Maybe they were a full-time homemaker and parent, providing considerable flexibility to a working spouse by facilitating early mornings and late evenings, last-minute meetings, and business travel, and thereby contributing to the earning power and career advancement of their spouse.
- Maybe as the stay-at home parent, time away from their careers resulted in lost income, opportunity, and career advancement.
- Maybe they were victims of domestic violence and face diminished earning capacity as a result of missed career or educational opportunities, or are dealing with physical or emotional health ramifications as a result of domestic violence that impact their ability to work and support themselves.
- Maybe they had agreed to be the full-time homemaker, and now have no work experience, and alimony prevents them from sliding into poverty.
- Maybe there wasn’t sufficient property available to provide a just and equitable division.
- Maybe their health or physical or mental disability reduces their ability to work and support themselves, or maybe they are caring for a child of the marriage with a serious physical or mental disability that requires extra care and supervision.
- Maybe they pay out alimony to an ex-spouse who fits the descriptions above.
There will likely be two public hearings where we would need to generate participants who could speak about their experience as a recipient or a payor of alimony. We can also present personal stories anonymously through written testimony. There will be participants present in favor of reforms, like termination of maintenance upon co-habitation or remarriage; prohibitions on spousal maintenance post-retirement; and retroactive changes to existing orders, as well as firm guidelines as to the amount of maintenance to award, the duration of the payments, and criteria for early termination of those payments. Anyone willing to share their story can do so here, or by contacting our staffer Our staffer Hannah Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-793-9434.
The Task Force must present legislative recommendations by December 1, 2017 to the Senate and House Judiciary committees aimed to “improve clarity, fairness, predictability, and consistency across the State in recognition of changes to the family structure in recent decades”. This Task Force sunsets March 1, 2018. As an aside, the legislation that created the Task Force included new non-binding statewide alimony amount and duration guidelines as one of eight factors for judges to consider.