Notes from Laura Morgan and Guy Ferro's Spousal Support Presentation

Laura Morgan,, VA (the “Goddess” and co-author of the Spousal Support Handbook to be published by the ABA in 2007) and Gaetano(“Guy”) Ferro, CT, President-Elect, AAML, presented Alimony, Spousal Support and Maintenance: A Musical in Six Acts at the AAML/LBA Family Law seminar at the LBA April 21, 2006. Here's the general outline and a few notes. Thanks Laura and Guy for permitting me to post about your great presentation.

“Those Were the Days, My Friend”

!. Introduction “Something’s Gotta Give”
What is Spousal Support and what is it supposed to accomplish?

II Traditional View of Alimony “Bbbbbad to the Bbbbone”
“I Know a Little Bit About a Lot of Things But I Don’t Know Enough About You”

III The First Wave “People Get Ready, There’s A Change A Comin”
Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act
“I am Woman, Hear Me Roar”
“I Will Survive”
“Working Nine to Five”

IV The Second Wave “Will You Still Need Me When I’m Sixty-Four”
“What I’ll Do When You Are Far Away And I Am Blue”
“Yip Yip Yip, Mum Mum Mum…Get a Job”
“What’s Goin On?”
“Take This Job and Shove It”

V Unanswered Questions “Time Keeps Slipping, Slipping Into the Future”
“Get Out of Here, and Give Me Some Money, Too”

VI Current Trends “Money, That’s What I Want”
Compensation Based Method of Support
Fault “Your Cheatin Heart”
“Oh, I Believe in Yesterday”

VII Kentucky Law “The Sun Shines Bright in my Old Kentucky Home, ‘Tis Summer, the People are Gay” (unless you want to adopt children)
“Well, You Can Cry Me a River”
Turns away from UMDA, applies principle of the “equal degradation of standard of living of both parties” (not the legal standard, this is the description of the result as communicated by a KY Fellow at last year's seminar)

VIII Alimony Guidelines
Broad discretion in award of alimony is no longer justifiable and should be discarded in favor of guidelines, if not adopted as an outright rule. Bacon v. Bacon, 819 So2d 950 (Fla 4th DCA 2002)
The New Mexico Experiment 38 Family Law Quarterly 29 (2005)
38 June Md. B.J. 46 (2005)
33 U. Louisville J. Family Law 971,972 (1995)
Victoria Ho has also published on guidelines in the Florida Bar Journal and Divorce Litigation
Some Michigan counties use “Alimony Series” software endorsed by the Family Law Council of the Michigan Bar Association (
Fairfax VA Bar Association has download of guidelines of pendente lite alimony that has been in use since 1981
Nevada has computer program which gives support result based on historical judicial awards over 30 years with analysis of factors underlying awards.
Johnson County Kansas guidelines distributed. AAML Fellow Ron Nelson is a big supporter of these guidelines. 20% (no children) 25%(with children) of difference in gross income of parties, gross income defined by child support guidelines definition, duration 2 years for first 5 yrs of marriage then 1 year for every 3 yrs, with maximum of 10 years plus 1 month, but there are other factors that may be considered.

There is growing, but guarded support of adoption of guidelines

In short term marriages, support is less problematic. In long term marriages, indeterminate awards are preferred.

IX ALI Principles, Compensating Spousal Payments
Principles of Family Law and Recommendations, 2002, 1100 pages, spousal compensation section, 110 pages. Useful state-by-state statement of the law ; recommendations for spousal support are controversial. They created the policy that spousal support should be compensation to allocate financial losses arising from dissolution that are equitable in application and disregard fault. Compensable loss of earnings include those related to caretaking of children or others to whom moral responsibility arose. The person who earns most of the money should end up with most of it. Comments to the final draft say they are merging concepts of support and property.

X The AAML Response
In response to a survey, most Fellows believed the most important factor should be need, then the length of marriage and earnings and the least important factor is fault. What most Fellows like least about guidelines was the lack of discretion and interestingly, what most Fellows like least about the lack of guidelines is too much discretion resting with the court! A blue ribbon Academy committee is studying the issue and the AAML expects to publish a formal official response

Further Reading:
Starnes, Mothers as Suckers: Pity, Partnership and Divorce Discourse, 90 Iowa L. Rev. 1513 (2005),
Kapalla, Some Assembly Required: Why States Should Not Adopt the ALI’s System of Presumptive Alimony Wards in Its Current Form, 2004 Mich. St. L. Review 207