The world has changed a great deal since I began practicing law in early 1990. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the biggest box office star in the US, 9/11 was just another date on the calendar, and Autism would not even be considered a special needs classification for another two years. Since that time, we have seen a major social revolution, with single parent adoptions legalized in 1996, same sex adoptions legalized in 2001, and same sex marriages which became recognized in 2010 and legalized in 2013.
While the overall divorce rate has not changed significantly over the past 25 years, it is staggering to note that in 2013, 21 million children lived in single family households. While this is anecdotal, I recently attended a seminar in Southern Maryland attended by Judges and Domestic Relations Masters and sponsored by the Maryland State Bar Association, and concluded that over the next several years it is going to become much more difficult to obtain alimony, a great departure from the prevailing judicial sentiment of the 1990s.
Clearly, members of our judiciary are more likely to reflect a more modern viewpoint on the interrelationship between the law and the family, such that the maternal bias in child custody cases is a notion well outside the judicial mainstream, if not almost universally rejected as a basis to award custody. Courts are now focused exclusively (or almost exclusively) on what a child really needs…kind, nurturing, and reasonable parents.
Further, as our workforce becomes older and more mature, and as medicine now enables people to be productive well past 65, it is clear that it will be much more difficult for financially dependent spouses to obtain alimony as a vehicle for lifetime support, as opposed to a bridge towards financial independence. The challenge for lawyers in the 21st century will be to use in combination with common sense ideas about the workplace to obtain long term alimony in cases where it is justified and oppose long term alimony in cases where it should not be awarded or is not necessary