Alimony is one of the most contentious aspects of modern divorce, and California and many states are considering ways to reduce its impact. This is particularly important because although the Supreme Court ruled many years ago that alimony awards cannot be gender-specific, only 3 percent of alimony recipients are males. Alimony added an estimated $9.2 million to 2013 tax returns from an approximate 400,000 recipients nationwide.

Much of the controversy about spousal support payments stems from the fact that payers of both sexes regard alimony as payment after the rest of the marital contract has been voided. In most states, limiting factors such as duration of marriage modify the amount of alimony to be paid, but most states still permit for continuous alimony payments for disabled or retired spouses. However, alimony is becoming more rare across the nation.

As opposed to 25 percent of divorces requiring alimony payments as a part of the divorce decree in the 1960s, far fewer include alimony today, according to a study of divorces in the state of Wisconsin. While modification of alimony after the divorce decree is finalized is possible in some cases, the limiting factors make it a very difficult process with an uncertain outcome. This plays a major role in causing more people nationwide to advocate for alimony reform.

An attorney assisting a client with a divorce may elect to start by examining any prenuptial or other agreements limiting alimony or interests in other assets outside the scope of the marital estate itself. The attorney might consider the financial status of both parties during settlement negotiations over spousal support and other divorce legal issues.