Revanche brought an interesting article to my attention last night… and we both agreed that it’s pretty, well, bogus.
There are certainly circumstances in which alimony / spousal support may be justified, especially when both partners agreed to have one partner give up his/her earnings to care for children. One of examples cited in the Wall Street Journal article, however, just makes me shake my head.
Consider this: A couple divorced amicably in 1982. Both sides agreed to waive any right to alimony. Apparently, that agreement didn’t hold – a judge ordered one spouse to pay $400 weekly payments to the other, 25 years after the marriage ended. It’s a long excerpt below, but I think it’s really enlightening to read.
Paul and Theresa Taylor were married for 17 years. He was an engineer for Boston’s public-works department, while she worked in accounting at a publishing company. They had three children, a weekend cottage on the bay and a house in the suburbs, on a leafy street called Cranberry Lane. In 1982, when they got divorced, the split was amicable. She got the family home; he got the second home. Both agreed “to waive any right to past, present or future alimony.”
But recently, more than two decades after the divorce, Ms. Taylor, 64, told a Massachusetts judge she had no job, retirement savings or health insurance. Earlier this year, the judge ordered Mr. Taylor, now 68 and remarried, to pay $400 per week to support his ex-wife. “This is insane,” Mr. Taylor says, adding that the payments cut his after-tax pension by more than one-third. “Someone can just come back 25 years later and say, ‘My life went down the toilet, and you’re doing good—so now I want some of your money’?”
In 2003, more than two decades after agreeing to end a 17-year marriage without alimony, Ms. Taylor was diagnosed with melanoma. She lost her publishing job when her employer of 38 years filed for bankruptcy protection. She’d recently surrendered her home to the bank and filed for personal bankruptcy to resolve $27,000 in medical and credit-card debts. 
Mr. Taylor, meanwhile, had retired after 33 years working for the city of Boston, with an annual pension of $56,000.
In a September 2007 complaint filed in a state probate court, Ms. Taylor cited “changes in circumstances” and sued her former husband for support payments. She wrote that Mr. Taylor owned homes in Florida and Cape Cod and traveled to Europe. 
In court, Mr. Taylor said he was sensitive to his former wife’s plight, but that too much time had passed and that their divorce was final 25 years ago. His second wife, he said, had inherited the Cape Cod house from her father. Their trips were financed through home-swaps and reduced-fare tickets from his stepson, an airline employee.
In June 2008, a probate judge ordered Mr. Taylor to pay temporary alimony based on Ms. Taylor’s “dire immediate need” and his “ability to pay.” In its January final order, the court, citing Mr. Taylor’s income from his pension, told Mr. Taylor to pay his ex-wife $400 per week for five years. The payment will eventually fall to about $250 a week for the rest of her life. 
Virginia Connelly, Ms. Taylor’s lawyer, says she can see how Mr. Taylor could find the situation unfair. But under Massachusetts law, she said, judges who want to keep a person off public services can turn to the ex-spouse. 
In May, to seek relief from legal and other bills, Mr. Taylor declared personal bankruptcy. He is still responsible for supporting his ex-wife. “If she loses all her money, so what? She can just take me back to court,” he says. “Somewhere along the line I should have peace of mind.”
 I don’t think either party are the bad people. Ms. Taylor’s situation is sad – anyone would be sympathetic to her illness. She doesn’t appear to have any means of supporting herself, so I’m going to assume that she went after her ex-husband because she felt like she didn’t have any other choice.
 And I don’t see how Mr. Taylor’s situation matters one iota. It’s been 25 years – of course there are changes in circumstance! Even if he is a millionaire with money made off unsavory business practices in a 3rd-world country – his money is his. It does not belong to a woman whom he divorced 25 years ago, and with whom signed an no alimony agreement. If Mr. Taylor had the ability, it would be nice / morally right for him to help the mother of his children, but financial support should not be dictated by the courts.
 Mr. Taylor and Ms. Taylor divorced and signed an no-alimony agreement. Which in my book should mean you cut future legal and financial ties with the person you were once married to. Which should mean that the contract that you both came to (and there’s no evidence that this no-alimony agreement was made under duress by either party) should be upheld. Which means a court shouldn’t be able to go back and say to Mr. Taylor, oops, you’re still financially responsible for this person whom you have no legal relationship to.
 Under Massachusetts law… judges who want to keep a person off public services can turn to the ex-spouse. To this I ask: WHY? Why is the law set up in such a way that let the government shirk its responsibility and go after the ex-spouse? If an individual qualifies for government help, he/she should receive such help.
Right now I am receiving unemployment insurance payments because I qualify for them. It doesn’t matter that my parents have the ability to give me $X a month – can the government go to Mom and say, oh, sorry, you have to cover WellHeeled’s UI payments because you were her primary caretaker for 18 years, and we don’t really want to pay.
Um, NO. So why is this case of the ex-spouses separated by 25 years who have both agreed to an no-alimony agreement different?
In conclusion: In cases such as these, I’m sure there are all sorts of information / legal issues that are not covered here. But from what I’ve read from the article, I really feel for Mr. Taylor. I just really don’t understand what the court’s reasoning was. And if a divorce agreement can be overturned 25 years after the fact, I wonder how much water prenuptial agreements really hold.