Is This The End of Alimony As We Know It?

Traditionally, alimony has been a man vs. woman thing. Men get ordered to pay, women get alimony and men get bitter. But as women have become more economically powerful, the game has changed.

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Alessandra Petlin for TIME

Debbie Leff Israel worries about marrying John Kelapire (background) because he owes permanent alimony to his ex-wife.

For probably as long as it has existed, alimony has been a man vs. woman thing. Men get ordered to pay, women get alimony and men get bitter. But as women have become more economically powerful, the game has changed.

In 2012, a new law came into effect in Massachusetts that abolished permanent alimony and set up a formula for future payments. Some men there had been paying for decades to women to whom they’d only been married very briefly.  While Massachusetts is the front runner, several states, especially Florida, are rethinking the way alimony is awarded.

Should men still have to pay alimony when women can now be educated and make (almost) as much as men? What about women who live with another guy but still take alimony? What do women who pay alimony think? And if we abolish alimony, how do older women without job skills get by?

In this week’s TIME, we look at the wave of alimony reform sweeping across the U.S. and the surprising people who are helping to effect that change: women.  To do this, we had to interview a lot of divorced couples. As you can imagine, many of them were a little taken aback to find themselves talking to the nation’s preeminent newsweekly about their ex-spouses.  (Angelina Jolie isn’t the only brave person in the news this week!)

Click here to read the full story on alimony, available exclusively for TIME subscribers.

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What do you think? Should permanent alimony be eradicated? Or is that unfair to women who stayed home to raise the kids? Feel free to weigh in with comments below.

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