NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission. All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.
Schwarzenegger/Shriver Divorce Shows Absurdity of Current Alimony System
Fathers and Families helped introduce SB 481, a California bill to curb the common family court practice of issuing "double dipping" spousal support orders. SB 481 comes on the heels of SB 1482, an alimony reform bill we helped pass last year. To learn more, click here. The Schwarzenegger/Shriver divorce case shows the absurdity of spousal support laws. Here's one article of many (Time, 7/27/11). As doubtless the whole world knows by now, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife Maria Shriver are divorcing after he admitted fathering a child with their housekeeper. Needless to say, I don't blame Shriver a bit for divorcing him. So in the preliminary jousting over divorce, Schwarzenegger's lawyer filled out a form saying his client didn't intend to pay spousal support to Shriver. I thought that was perfectly reasonable given the fact that Shriver is fabulously wealthy, worth, as I understand it, in the hundreds of millions of dollars. But the former governor changed his mind about paying alimony, perhaps, as the article speculates, to try to mend his image which seems to be fraying a bit at the edges. That's his decision of course. If he thinks that contesting the payment of alimony to a woman whose net worth is greater than that of more than 99.9% of the world's population, would tarnish his reputation, it's OK by me. But the whole case raises some important issues that no one seems to be discussing. For example, why is there no wealth cut-off for spousal support? After all, the very concept of alimony has no relevance to either Schwarzenegger or Shriver. The long outdated theory is that women can't support themselves and we don't want husbands walking out on wives and leaving them destitute. Needless to say, in the vast majority of divorces these days, the major premise of alimony law is flat wrong. Women can support themselves and should be expected to. We surely haven't come all this way toward women's freedom to pursue careers, just to have them say "No, I think I'll let the ex support me." Or have we? As I've said before, I can see certain exceptions to my proposal that we do away with alimony altogether. Clearly, in cases in which one spouse is very aged, or physically or mentally impaired, alimony can be appropriate. Spouses who've made career sacrifices in order to stay home with their children also deserve consideration and time to get up to speed in whatever occupation he/she had prior to taking on the stay-at-home parent role. But please; Maria Shriver? She'll never have to lift a finger in her entire life. Her money, conservatively invested should net her tens of millions every year tax-free. She doesn't need Schwarzenegger's money, so why is she entitled to it? Why is there no reasonable cap on how much a person can be worth and still ask for continuing support from a spouse post-divorce? It's 2011. Let's stop living like it's 1911. Women rightly wanted equality of opportunity in the workplace. Now they've got it, so let's scrap alimony laws that pretend they don't.