West Virginia Archives | Cordell & Cordell

West Virgina courts to study spousal support issue

The West Virginia Supreme Court has announced plans to create a panel of judges, lawyers and other experts to study the need for spousal support guidelines and to outline a plan for the development of a law, if necessary, The Associated Press reported.

Chief Justice Margaret Workman announced her plan at the Fall Family Court Judicial Education Conference in Charleston, and noted that idea is to determine whether the state would need guidelines similar to those that are used for child support, according to the news outlet.

The panel would also decide whether these rules would help to reduce the financial and emotional costs of divorce. Workman noted that the current spousal support awards are inconsistent and unpredictable, and offers judges no guidance on the amount and length of payment, reported the AP.

According to the Charleston Daily Mail, Workman told the family court judges that she would announce the members of the commission in the near future and if the panel were to come up with guidelines, these could be pushed to the Supreme Court and possibly to the legislature.

Bay State lawmakers propose alimony reform bill

Massachusetts lawmakers have proposed a new alimony reform bill that would significantly alter how alimony payments are determined in the state and place caps on payment duration, according to published reports.

The bill, known as the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of 2011, would allow judges to base alimony awards on the recipients actual financial need for spousal support and end payments for long-term marriages at retirement age. In addition, short-term marriages would receive earlier caps and payments would end if the recipient remarried or began living with another partner.

A task force began working on the reform effort more than a year ago, according to the Boston Business Journal, which said it was started by Judiciary Co-chairs Senator Cynthia Creem and Representative Eugene O’Flaherty.

“The word I’ve heard is there is a lot of momentum behind this bill, and that legislators are motivated to do something about this issue,” Kelly Leighton, a local divorce attorney and co-chair of the Boston Bar Associations family law section, told the newspaper.

Multiple states have recently proposed legislation to alter outdated alimony laws. In West Virginia, lawmakers are advocating a bill that would not require an individual to pay alimony if their partner had an affair during their marriage.

WV Man Jailed For Refusing Alimony to Ex

A West Virginia Senator said he plans to propose legislation that will not require alimony payments following a divorce in cases where infidelity is involved, according to published reports.

The announcement by state Sen. David Nohe occurred at a rally held outside of the Wood County Courthouse held to generate awareness and support for Vienna resident Sean Keefe. Keefe is currently serving a six-month jail sentence for refusing to pay alimony to his ex-wife after he discovered he was not the father of their youngest son.

“Until it happens to you, you don’t realize there is no law to protect you,” Caroline Keefe, Sean Keefe’s current wife, told the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

Two years after Keefe and his ex-wife divorced, a DNA test revealed that he was not the father of his youngest son. However, by law he was still required to pay $1,300 a month in child support and $1,800 in alimony. Although Keefe agreed to pay the child support he refused to provide the alimony payment, leading a Family Court judge to sentence him to jail in May.

Nohe and fellow state Senator Donna Boley have introduced a pair of bills in response to Keefe’s situation. The legislation would allow the court to consider ending child support payments when there is DNA evidence to prove a person is not the biological father and would bar alimony when there is proof of infidelity.

Although both bills failed last session, Nohe said he and Boley plan to write a new bill to address paternity fraud and alimony.

Tennessee’s Supreme Court recently heard a case involving an alimony issue. A man filed a lawsuit after a judge ordered he pay his wife $15,000 a year following their divorce despite the fact that she earned an annual salary of $72,000.

Man chooses jail over alimony

A West Virginia man is sitting in jail rather than paying alimony to his ex-wife, in a move that he hopes will lead to the state enacting child paternity laws.

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel reports that Sean Keefe is spending six months in jail rather than pay his former wife $1,800 a month in alimony.

Keefe said that he discovered during the divorce process that he is not the father of his wife’s youngest child, and while his current wife says he has continued to pay $1,300 a month in child support, he has drawn the line at paying the spousal support, reports the news source.

Keefe and his current wife are hoping that Senate Bills 502 and 503, which were introduced in the state legislature during the most recent session, will be passed and help men going through divorce.

The purpose of SB 502 is to “provide a procedure for vacating a judgment of paternity when there is genetic evidence that excludes the previously established father as the biological father of the child in question,” according to the website of the West Virginia legislature.

Bill 503 would bar alimony payments if there is proof of an affair.