The brand new artwork of upkeep


Paul and Theresa Taylor were married for 17 years. He was an engineer for the Boston Public Utilities while she worked in the accounting department of a publishing house. They had three children, a weekend house on the bay and a suburban house on a leafy street called Cranberry Lane. In 1982, when they divorced, the separation was amicable. She got the family home; he got the second home. Both agreed to “waive any claim to previous, present or future maintenance payments”.

But recently, more than two decades after the divorce, Ms. Taylor, 64, a Massachusetts magistrate, said she had no work, retirement plans, or health insurance. Earlier this year, the judge ordered Mr. Taylor, now 68 and remarried, to pay $ 400 a week to support his ex-wife.

“This is insane,” says Taylor, adding that the payments cut his after-tax pension by more than a third. “Someone can just come back 25 years later and say, ‘My life went down the bathroom and you’re fine – so now I want some of your money’?”

The nature of marriage has changed dramatically over the decades. Today women make up almost half of the American workforce. But alimony, a term anchored in old law, has remained remarkably constant. Now the idea that a husband should support his wife forever, even after the end of their marriage – which has long been a cornerstone of divorce law – is being questioned. There is growing pressure to change a practice that some consider outdated and unfair.

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