Friday, April 17, 2015

Is "Alimony Slave" a Valid Term?

There is little that will cause a judge, legislator or lawyer to get more defensive and riled up than stating that permanent alimony is slavery. Let's see if we can look at the matter analytically rather than emotionally. 

Slavery is defined by Wikipedia (and others) as:

Slavery is a legal or economic system under which people are treated as property.[1] While laws and systems vary, as property, slaves may be bought and sold. Slaves can be held from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation.
By this definition, permanent alimony is not slavery because the person paying alimony cannot be bought and sold. I have to pay alimony until the day I die but Spring cannot sell me and my income to another. 

However most countries recognize debt bondage as a form of slavery. Again, from Wikipedia:

Debt bondage has been described by the United Nations as a form of "modern day slavery" and the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery seeks to abolish the practice.[1][2][3] Most countries are parties to the Convention, but the practice is still prevalent in South Asia.[1] Debt bondage in India was legally abolished in 1976 but remains prevalent.
Debt bondage was very common in Ancient Greece. In ancient AthensSolon forbade taking out loans using oneself as a security and ended such debts.
Involuntary servitude is defined by Wikipedia to be (emphasis mine):
Involuntary servitude is a United States legal and constitutional term for a person laboring against that person's will to benefit another, under some form of coercion other than the worker's financial needs. While laboring to benefit another occurs also in the condition of slavery, involuntary servitude does not necessarily connote the complete lack of freedom experienced in chattel slavery; involuntary servitude may also refer to other forms of unfree labor. Involuntary servitude is not dependent upon compensation or its amount.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution makes involuntary servitude illegal under any U.S. jurisdiction whether at the hands of the U.S. government or in the private sphere, except as punishment for a crime: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
The Supreme Court has held, in Butler v. Perry, 240 U.S. 328 (1916), that the Thirteenth Amendment does not prohibit "enforcement of those duties which individuals owe to the state, such as services in the army, militia, on the jury, etc." Onerous long term alimony and spousal support orders, premised on a proprietary interest retained by former marital partners in one another's persons, have also been allowed in many states, though they may in practice embody features of involuntary servitude.[1]
So what do we have? Obviously I am not a chattel slave as I cannot be bought and sold nor can my children be compelled to work for Spring. (although their standard of living has been reduced because of her) However, I think I am clearly in a state of involuntary servitude as I am required to pay a a very large amount of money to Spring every month no matter what until the day I day.  I am being forced to work for her. Retirement is not an option for me. The court order was clear - nothing short of death will will fulfill my obligation. 

Also clear is that I am a debt slave. My debt is not a set amount. I can never pay it off no matter how hard I work. Again, the only way to fulfill my debt is to die. 

Well that was a bit depressing. 

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