Bloomberg recently published a lengthy profile of a New Jersey man who has been jailed eight times now due to his failure to pay court-ordered permanent alimony to his ex-wife. The case has received national attention and has brought the conversation concerning the practice of awarding lifetime alimony to a wide audience.
The unusual case concerns Ari Schochet, a former portfolio manager for Citadel Investment Group. He once earned $1 million a year in his high-profile job, but has since run into legal trouble after losing his job and finding himself unable to meet his monthly obligations. Schochet owes his ex-wife $78,000 per year in permanent alimony, a figure that cannot be altered despite his current unemployment.
Schochet says he's been jailed so many times over the past two years that he's developed a routine before heading to court. He always attaches a nicotine patch to his arm to help ease the smoking ban inside the local jail. He also shoots a standard “Ari is off the grid” email to friends and family warning of his impending disappearance, and he makes sure to jot important phone numbers down on his arm in permanent ink. Schochet says his longest stay thus far has been for 11 days, a shocking time for many who might not have even realized jail time was possible for those who cannot afford to make alimony payments.
Though Schochet's case is sensational, advocates claim there are thousands of similarly unfair stories taking place all across the country. To help combat these problems, states like New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida and New York are all currently debating sweeping changes to existing alimony laws. Experts say that in the past several years, three states have passed laws that totally abolish permanent alimony awards, while lawmakers in 10 other states are currently considering similar proposals.
The argument used by Schochet and others who sympathize with his position is that while people have a moral obligation to provide for their minor children, there is no similar moral obligation to continue caring for your former spouse for the rest of your life. As a result, New Jersey lawmakers are debating a proposal that would completely end the practice of lifetime alimony. In its place, limited-duration alimony would be awarded, and it would be capped at no longer than half the length of a marriage, with marriages lasting less than five years not being applicable for alimony awards at all.
Whether this dramatic change will actually pass and become law remains to be seen. However, people like Ari Schochet believe that some changes should indeed be made to ensue that alimony, which is meant to help one spouse, does not end up crippling the other in the process. If you have questions about South Carolina alimony or other spousal support/maintenance issues, contact an experienced South Carolina family law attorney who can help explain your options and determine what course of action is best for you.
Source: “Jail Becomes Home for Husband Stuck With Lifetime Alimony,” by Sophia Pearson, published at Bloomberg.com.