January 24, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
In Virginia, there’s a bill, HB 1500, that deserves support. If enacted into law, the foundations of civilization won’t quake, but it will make a modest improvement to the status quo.
In 2018, Congress changed the Tax Code to make spousal support a nullity for tax purposes. That is, spousal support is no longer income to the recipient and no longer deductible by the payor. Each is a reversal of what had gone before.
How Congress came up with that brilliant idea, I assume I’ll never know. After all, in most cases in which income is transferred from one entity to another, the recipient is required to report it as income. And in some of those cases, the payor may deduct the amount transferred from his/her taxable income.
As to spousal support, that’s no longer the case. That of course constitutes a significant windfall to recipients and a further blow to the pocketbooks of payors.
So the Virginia bill seeks to ameliorate that situation, at least a bit. It does so be simply reducing the amounts called for in the state’s guidelines for spousal support. In so doing, it would decrease the amount paid and received in what approximates the increases caused by the new tax law. In short, it tries to get Virginians back to where they were before Congress acted.
Unfortunately, it pertains only to orders that are effective during the pendency of the divorce case, i.e. temporary orders. What its effect, if any, would be on permanent orders, I don’t know. And of course existing orders for payment of spousal support would be entirely unchanged.
As I’ve said before, spousal support should be a thing of the past in almost all cases. There is simply no reason why, in this society, in this economy, in 2020, an adult can’t support her/himself. The principle of gender equality demands the abolition of spousal support in the great majority of divorces. And, also as I’ve said before, there should be narrowly-tailored exceptions to the rule of no spousal support. Those include disabled spouses and those who are too old to be expected to re-enter the job market. Plus, I’d make an exception if one spouse stayed home with the kids for a significant period and needs some time to re-train for paid work.
But beyond those narrow exceptions, spouses need to be responsible for themselves and the choices they make.
So, as I said, Virginia House Bill 1500 isn’t earthshattering. It’s a modest attempt to right a wrong. As such, it should be supported. Please do so if you can.