Women off to WAR!!! Fighting the Foe of Permanent Alimony

Women take up arms against the menacing threat of permanent alimony

Contrary to the lyrics of Edwin Starr’s popular version, sometimes WAR is good for something. That is the belief of a growing force of women who have answered the call and joined NJ Women for Alimony Reform, or WAR for short.  Under the command and leadership of Sheila Taylor, these ladies have begun to mount an overwhelming offensive in order to reform NJ’s antiquated alimony laws. Women like Lynne Sebold, Ali Whiting and Maureen Barile have led the charge in speaking with politicians, attorneys, reporters and other women who have had to face the injustices and horrendous conditions perpetrated by permanent alimony.  And as their ranks continue to swell, NJ may soon be thinking that this is one WAR they should have never provoked.

Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn for permanent alimony

The catalyst for this WAR, was an article written by the former chair of the family law section of the NJ bar association, Patrick Judge Jr., which indicated that current alimony laws are founded upon, “firm legislative and judicial policy of basic fairness” and that alimony reform would be detrimental for NJ women. For Sheila Taylor, a lifetime payer of alimony, this was propaganda of the worst kind, so she established WAR in order to combat these fallacies and to educate the public on the truth behind permanent alimony.

With the help of fresh recruits like Maureen Barile, more and more people would soon realize that alimony affects women as well as men and that, “Permanent alimony controls your life forever, where you can never move on“.  Maureen, like many others, has lost her home, a substantial portion of her income, and provides a $250,000.00 life insurance policy for a man who lied about his income in court and has no relationship with his children. Yet like all the women involved in WAR she has not lost hope and has proved to be a valuable asset by writing letters to representatives “every day” and “educating people about the problems associated with permanent alimony“.  Through the help of women like Maureen, the spotlight on alimony reform has grown, and the tide has also begun to turn.

WAR forms an important alliance

Since its founding, WAR has campaigned relentlessly to reform the current statutes governing alimony, which are N.J.S.2A:34-23 and N.J.S.2A:34-25.  Their biggest grievances with the these laws has always been that they allow and provide a preference for permanent alimony as well as the fact that they offer no guidelines, or formulas in determining how long alimony should be granted for. It was for these reasons, that Ali Whiting and Lynne Sebold, two lifetime payers of alimony as well as WAR veterans and board members, helped to organize a meeting with NJ assemblyman, Charles Mainor, in order to address the outrageous conditions perpetrated by permanent alimony.

Mr. Mainor listened to alimony horror stories such as Ms. Sebold’s, a single mother and sole provider for her two children, who recanted phrases such as, “It’s pathetic that I have to worry about filling up my car“, and described how her, “children can’t do any after school activities“.  He also heard how Ms. Whiting, a cancer survivor who’s lost almost everything including her house, “can’t afford Christmas gifts” and “would be living on the street if not for her friends and family“.  For Mr. Mainor these WAR stories were not only tragic, but also a call to arms towards reforming NJ antiquated alimony laws.

WAR gains ground

Approximately two months after this famous rendezvous, Assemblyman Mainor was so moved by the gross injustices perpetrated by permanent alimony that he became the prime sponsor behind assembly bill 3909, a law which would revise the current alimony statutes, by eliminating permanent alimony and establishing guidelines for the amount and duration of alimony awards. Soon, more politicians would agree with Mr. Mainor’s sentiment that, “Once the marriage is over a person shouldn’t be obligated to take care of (their former spouse) for life“.

He quickly garnered support for this bill as assemblymen Sean T. Kean, Benjie E. Wimberly, and assemblywomen, Angelica M. Jimenez and Cleopatra Tucker all became direct sponsors.  A few months later, senators, such as Sandra B. Cunningham and Robert W. Singer, took note of the significance of this proposed new law, and sponsored an identical proposal known as senate bill 2750. Together, these two complimentary bills hope to end the tyranny imposed by the reign of permanent alimony and win this WAR once and for all.

Commentary

Ali Whiting, Lynne Sebold and Maureen Barile have all exhibited an uncanny strength and courage as they continue to march forward, and garner support in their fight against permanent alimony. They are not only WAR heroes but also serve as models of inspiration for every woman who has ever faced insurmountable odds, tragedy and a persistent feeling that all hope is lost.  Until the WAR has won, these women will not rest, tire or grow weary, for they truly are soldiers in the fight for their life.

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About Tristan Cavadas

I have spent most of my life as an obsessive schoolaholic. While attending college, I became a licensed NJ title insurance producer. After earning my degree, I pursued a graduate program in London, and then attended law school. I welcome the opportunity to write about important legal developments, court decisions, and moderating discussions that impact the lives of our audience.

4 Responses to “Women off to WAR!!! Fighting the Foe of Permanent Alimony”

  1. Ruby2008 August 2, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    You ladies have stepped out and brought to light a critical issue with women who also are indentured to serve another for life. The same laws that have held men captive to an ex-spouse are fairly applied to women who were the key income earners This is probably the only ‘fair’ thing about our alimony laws….. If you can call that fair. Thank you for highlighting these brave women. Thank you ladies for your time, efforts and bravery.

    • Tristan Cavadas August 2, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

      Ruby,

      Thank you for highlighting the bravery these women have demonstrated. Considering everything they have had to deal with in their lifetime, their unwavering and continual activism in this important area is truly inspirational.

  2. ShiningBeacon August 2, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    Permanent alimony is unfair, whether the payor is a man or a woman. It is not really a gender issue.

    Currently, there are more women receiving alimony than paying it, so some women would like to preserve the privilege of receiving lifetime alimony as a net benefit to their gender. But, this is out of step with our societal aspirations of equality of the sexes.

    In fact, we all know, not just from the demonstrable statistics about how women dominate at higher levels of education, but also in our hearts, that women are just as smart, strong and capable as men. Our government has enshrined this in law. If an employer discriminates against a woman, she can go to the EEOC, and they will litigate the case, free of charge, often with severe consequences for the employer.

    Our society is changing. The patriarchy is fading – and good riddance! We are all much better off with the many talented and hard-working women driving the economy forward, increasingly in leadership roles. One natural consequence of this, though, is that women will be paying alimony to men with greater frequency.

    So, the “debate” about alimony reform is not about protecting women from having to support themselves. Forget that. As things move forward, it is really just the question whether a failed marriage entitles one person – whether male or female — to lifetime support from the other. What really does one spouse owe the other one? Lifetime support is an extreme answer and is fraught with too many problems. Sometimes it’s terribly tragic. It’s time to end it. Alimony should just be transitional assistance.

    I am glad that the ladies from NJWAR have taken up this cause, because it’s the right thing to do. They help to make it clear that these changes are needed to make our society a better place and that it’s not about gender.

    • Tristan Cavadas August 2, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      Shinning Beacon,

      It is always a pleasure hearing from you. As you stated our society is changing, or rather it already has.

      As Stuart Kurtz, a lifetime payer of alimony has recently stated in an article he wrote, “the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics Report shows that 38.3 percent of wives in the U.S.out-earn their husbands. This number has steadily risen over the last two decades. That means 38.3 percent of the exposure to these outdated laws belongs to women. In fact, in a progressive state like New Jersey, the number is probably higher” (http://www.dailyrecord.com/article/20130723/NJOPINION02/307230002/Alimony-reform-needed-upgrade-outdated-system).

      Because of this, and other reasons it is important to remember that the notion of “alimony protects women”, is antiquated and irrelevant in today’s times.

      As you aptly mentioned, sometimes a marriage just doesn’t work out. Therefore, if two grown individuals can move on with their lives why can’t the law allow them to do so without suffering a lifetime of consequences for a previous mistake.

      Thank you again.

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