A History and Explanation of Alimony

alimony, alimony payments, Aurora family law attorney, divorced women, history of alimony, laws of covertureThe issue of alimony during a divorce can be highly contested between separating spouses — especially when one party’s economic means is greater than the other party. One reason for the conflict caused by alimony is a lack in the true understanding of its definition in Illinois, as well as its historical context in both a broad and narrow context.

It is a common misconception that alimony is a relatively new concept, proliferated by the increase in the divorce rate seen over last 30 years. However, the idea dates back hundreds of years. The origins of alimony lie in the divorce principles derived from the English laws of coverture that established a married couple as one entity, and thus merged their identities for legal purposes. This gave the husband control of any and all assets. In return, the husband was legally and morally obliged to “support and protect” his wife.

This English tradition carried over to America, and there are records indicating court-ordered alimony in the colonies, with the justification being that women had no other means of supporting themselves without their husbands. Social thought progressed with time, and then in the 1850’s some states enacted laws allowing divorced women to reclaim property they brought into a marriage.

From a certain perspective, these laws may dissolve the need for alimony, with both parties having the ability to take their individual personal assets upon separation. The issue is not that clear cut, however, and there are a few major points to consider. These include:

  • Traditionally, men have been the primary source of income in the household;

  • By definition under the traditional common law, removing alimony payment upon divorce would mean releasing the husband from his duty to “support and protect”; and

  • Completely dissolving economic ties between divorcing spouses can leave one economically destitute.

Therefore, the contemporary idea of alimony has evolved into the question of where the potential economic burden should then fall, therefore creating the conflict so commonly seen in these cases. Alimony in Illinois has made it so that many of these points can be adequately addressed, subsequently reviewed, and changed if needed. The law now exists so one party is not left in an dire financial situation that cannot be escaped.

If you are in the Chicago, Illinois area and need the professional, legal assistance of an Aurora family law attorney for your personal alimony case, the Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C. can guide you through each step of the process with care. Contact us today with any and all of your divorce, alimony, or other family law inquiries today.

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