As you've probably heard by now, the Supreme Court made gay marriage legal in all 50 states of the U.S. That means any two people in love can get married. But what about when they fall out of love? That will depend on the state they're residing in if and when it happens (and for 50% of them, it will). But is that something that needs changing?
For PBS NewsHour, economist Laurence Kotlikoff, well known for his Ask Larry Social Security column and his best seller, "Get What's Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security Benefits" takes a look at why a national divorce law makes sense nowadays. Here are a couple of his main points:
States Rights Don't Make Sense Anymore
Kotlikoff's main argument is that back when divorce laws were being prepared, people never moved or even divorced. But that's changed. With the new workforce making a transient lifestyle more desirable, there's a larger need for a baseline divorce because, as he puts it, if you're going through an amicable divorce, it should be no problem.
However, if you are going through something contentious, "[I]f you have a contested divorce and end up leaving it up to a judge, she'll likely apply state or county guidelines that can be very different depending on the state or country. Indeed, since only a few states and counties in the country have formal guidelines, the guidelines are mostly those set by the local judge. These judges are, of course, influenced primarily by what other judges in their locality and state are doing."
Alimony Guidelines Are All Over The Place
Kotlikoff creates a scenario of a couple getting divorced later in life. What's to become of their benefits? Well, that depends on where they're living.
"Suppose Joe and Sally live in Massachusetts. According to its online alimony guideline calculator, Joe will need to pay Sally $59,500 annually in alimony indefinitely, but this appears to really mean until Joe reaches 65 (17 years from now). This is the maximum alimony, which is set at 35 percent of the difference in Joe and Sally's incomes, but can be set as low as 30 percent of the difference.
If the couple lives in Kansas, however, Sally will, based on its state alimony guidelines, receive only $38,000. That's a third less! And she'll only collect the $38,000 for 8.77 years. So, on the face of it, Kansas's alimony—discounting for the time value of money—is less than 40 percent of the Massachusetts amount."
Is it time for a national divorce law too? (PBS NewsHour)
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.