That’s one way to get out of alimony

This is just lovely:

Lawrence Roach agreed to pay alimony to the woman he divorced, not the man she became after a sex change, his lawyers argued Tuesday in an effort to end the payments. But the ex-wife’s attorneys said the operation doesn’t alter the agreement.

Roach says, “I have a right to move forward with my life. I wish no harm and hardship to that person…They can be the person they want to be, to find happiness and peace within themselves. I have the right to do the same. But I can’t rest because I’m paying a lot of money every month.” Talk about a class act.

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  • Scilian

    One of the major components on deciding alimony is who is at fault of the marital breakdown. Since sexual preference and identity is not “environmental” – I think he should have a decent case.
    I mean, why should I pay alimony to a man who man who married me, and decided he didnt want to be married to me anymore, based on his sexual preference or identity?

  • ekh7q

    The man agreed to pay alimony after the divorce. It was part of the settlment agreement – a *contract* that concluded the dispute between two people about how their marital assets would be distributed upon dissolution. This Roach guy and the man who used to be his wife entered that contract – if the court does not require the alimony to continue, it’s the equivalent of holding that transsexuals are not bound by contracts that they entered prior to their transition. And that would be absurd.

  • micheyd

    Yeah, let’s try this out – I have some contracts I signed resulting in some bad debts, so I guess if I get a sex change they’re all void? Awesome!

  • raimileh

    I would just like to point out that absolutely nowhere in the article did it say that the couple got divorced because one of the partners decided to have a sex-change operation. In fact, many couples stay together through that, so I cannot see how that would possibly be reason enough. If Roach was expected to pay alimony before, there must have been a very good reason for that, and seeing as Julio is the same person as before, albeit now he is presenting himself the way he feels most comfortable, he still deserves that alimony.
    Also, Roach said that both he and his ex-partner have the right to move on peacefully and that for him, that includes not paying alimony, but I doubt he ever would have said that when Julio was presenting as Julia. It’s ok to give money to a poor, helpless woman, but when that woman “becomes” a man, giving money to him is somehow no longer a peaceful act.

  • micheyd

    My [/snark] tag fell off the end, but I think the point stands :)

  • ElleMariachi

    Here’s the thing, though–reassignment surgery doesn’t change “the person”. It just sets right what the person who undergoes surgery has felt all his/her life. If he married “that person”, as he says, and entered into that contract when that person happened to have a vagina, then he owes “that person” who now has a penis what is rightfully his.

  • Zed

    I think Scilian’s claim is that the argument will be that the contract was fraudulently obtained, and thus invalid. I’m not sufficiently versed in contract law to comment on the likelihood of that succeeding, but I also am not seeing that argument implied anywhere in the article.
    The man does seem to be arguing that a sex change voids identity, and thus contracts, and I don’t think that will ever go very far in the courts, even though the main thrust of his argument seems to rest on the invalidity of gay marriage.
    I’m actually quite fascinated by the response: courts have previously held that gender is defined by how you’re born, and that a sex change isn’t enough to invalidate a marriage. I haven’t read that decision, but presumably, this precedent could be extended to claim that gay marriage is legal, as long as one of the partners was *originally* of the opposite sex.
    I find this concept highly amusing. I hope it eventually shows up in court, just to see how it’s dealt with.

  • Scilian

    I did not look at in those lights, as Zed said, I was assuming that this played a role in ending the marriage, even though it may have not been brought up in the actual cases.
    If I felt that it was a major reason for the marriage failing, I would probably fight it. But since that is not his stated contention, I could see where he would found in the wrong.

  • Jami

    since it exists, of course this guy’s ex-wife should continue to receive it.
    but alimony is weird. unless there are children, getting married is no excuse for being unable to support yourself.

  • Kattyben

    Scilian, I think your argument is problematic for another reason: It is not the case that “One of the major components on deciding alimony is who is at fault of the marital breakdown.” Fault divorce has been eliminated in all but two states, and it is a formality even in those states.
    Alimony is awarded based on considerations like how long the marriage lasted, what the difference in income is between the parties, what is their respective earning potential, whether there are young children, and who will be primarily responsible for their care after the divorce.
    This guy’s lawyers are seriously reaching. ekh7q’s point is right on: a contract is a contract. Also, for a court to void such a contract because of sex reassignment would arguably be sex discrimination.
    Zed, it is in fact the case that same-sex couples HAVE gotten married in states where sex for purposes of a marriage license is determined by the birth certificate, and one of the spouses is MTF marrying a woman or FTM marrying a man. I just read a law review article about it. I agree, totally fascinating.

  • Lenka

    Kattyben, would you happen to have a link or cite for that SSM article you mentioned? I’d love to read it, too.

  • kathygnome

    Actually marriage for transpeople is all over the place legally. In Florida the courts have decided that post-op transpeople are their birth sex for the purposes of marriage for all eternity, no matter what their birth certificate says.
    See Linda Kantaras v. Michael Kantaras
    That, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with the alimony case.

  • jm

    I don’t know about all states, but where I am, alimony and child support are two different things. I have a friend who got married, and stopped his career after college to stay home with the kids. He took care of the kids and supported her with family money while she went on to get a PhD and a high-paying job. And then she left him. She was making 6 figures as a result of the education she was able to get through his support, and he had an 8-year hole on his resume, and no job outside the home. He now gets child support to help maintain the kids’ lifestyle, but he also gets alimony to help him recover the lost wages, etc. that he would have had if he hadn’t put his life on hold to further her career and the marriage. It’s unusual that he stayed home while she worked, but this story plays out all the time, and it’s why alimony is necessary. If my friend got a sex change, it wouldn’t change the fact that he sacrificed his educational and/or vocational development for the relationship that has now ended. Gaining a penis or vagina isn’t going to gain you the earning power of a PhD and a full resume (pay inequity based on sex notwithstanding).

  • Kattyben

    Right, kathygnome, I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. My point was that *in those states* that have established, by statute or court decision, that birth sex is the only sex that matters for purposes of marriage, this prevents post-op transexual heterosexual marriage, but PERMITS post-op transexual homosexual marriage. I don’t know FL law or the case you cited, but it sounds like this would be the case in FL.
    Lenka, the article is by Phyllis Randolph Frye: “Family and the Political Landscape for Lesbian, Gay, and Transgender People (LGBT): Same-Sex Marriages Have Existed Legally in the United States for a Long Time Now.” 64 Albany Law Review 1031 (2001). If you don’t have access to a law library or database, it’s available on — you can sign up for a free trial to get access.

  • ambidextrous amazon

    Interesting case.
    Here’s another alimony-related article I found fascinating:
    I’m sure there’s more to that couple’s story, but the way it seems is that the alimony was unfair to the paying spouse, because she “let” her husband freeload for so long.
    I find it horrible that people (men AND women) can be rewarded for freeloading from their spouse and then continuing to benefit financially from their laziness after a divorce.
    Personally I’m not sure how I feel about alimony. In some cases it makes sense, but I don’t see any good reason for most of the lifetime-payment agreements.

  • Kattyben

    Zed and kathygnome, I just realized that I confused the issue in my original post by referring to the sex on the “birth certificate” when I actually meant the birth sex itself. I forgot that some states will change birth certificates for post-op transexuals.

  • Zed

    Holy cow, that’s a convoluted case. I skipped through it a bit, trying to follow it, but it would take me a week to read.
    I want to note, though, that it seems to conclude the reverse of your claim: for the purpose of marriage, the post-op male was considered genuinely male, and the marriage was considered valid.

  • Zed

    Doh, never mind that last. I just discovered the appeal.

  • Kattyben

    Ambidextrous amazon, I’m with you. I think alimony is reeeeaaally thorny. The worst cases, in my mind, are like the one you linked to: spouse X supports spouse Y through school, then divorce. The more typical case is when Y’s income is dramatically increased, as with med or law school, but since the divorce coincides with the degree, division of marital property doesn’t compensate X for his/her contribution.

  • Andreas Schou

    I find it horrible that people (men AND women) can be rewarded for freeloading from their spouse and then continuing to benefit financially from their laziness after a divorce.
    Personally I’m not sure how I feel about alimony. In some cases it makes sense, but I don’t see any good reason for most of the lifetime-payment agreements.

    Alimony makes sense when one party has done a great deal of uncompensated work. For instance, I recently worked with someone who had multiple sclerosis, had raised the family’s daughter almost alone, and the entire family’s assets were (a) a house and (b) two retirement plans (a defined-benefit plan and a 401(k)) which couldn’t be accessed until my client turned 65 — and the client was currently in her mid-50s. Clearly, even with the sale of the house, my client would’ve been plunged into absolute penury if she was forced to divorce without some sort of ongoing compensation for her uncompensated work as a homemaker.
    Fortunately, the judge saw it our way, and she ended up walking away with $16,000/yr in spousal support for the next ten years. If she rolls the assets from the sale of the house into an annuity, that gives her a modest (but livable!) income of about $27,000 a year. Without the spousal support, she would end up far, far below the poverty line, with medical bills far exceeding her ability to pay.
    Clearly, spousal support isn’t appropriate in any, or even most, cases, but I think there needs to be an understanding that a lot of women’s work, or even “second shift” work, is uncompensated, and that that needs to be considered in division of community assets.
    — ACS

  • Kattyben

    ACS, I’m also wary of talk of “freeloaders.” Some people are, to be sure, but much more often there’s a typical domestic arrangement where one person does the housework and the other works for wages outside the home. Obviously, that’s usually the woman, and feminists have fought long and hard to get that work recognized AS work. Because it IS, both in the sense that it requires labor and in the sense that it is a very real economic contribution.

  • Heather Nan

    Here’s a question, might this argument be used when a woman undergoes a hysterectomy for a medical reason other than gender reassignment? She’s “no longer a woman” particularly in light of how the health officials in the Bush administration have defined womanhood, “a person capable of being pregnant.” Is it this idea of “choice” that makes the angle on further legitigation possible? Because it can (and should) be argued that trans-persons are not making a “choice,” but rather correcting a “mistake.” What does this say about how gender-expression and corresponding anatomy says to us about inherent personhood? Regardless of gender expression, aren’t there a number of factors that make us who we are as people? I’m more than my vagina and long hair. I’m an avid reader, I talk too much, I love to cook, etc. I doubt that if I had a gender reassignment surgery that I would all a sudden stop cooking strange and elaborate meals or chuck my library card!

  • ambidextrous amazon

    Andreas Schou, in that scenario I can definitely see how alimony makes sense. I just get the impression (maybe unfounded?) that it can be a lot less fair when, say, there are no children, or if the judge doesn’t take all the specifics of the scenario into consideration (such as the one in the link I posted). I know that doesn’t invalidate the necessity of the alimony system, but I must admit that the prospect of supporting a spouse while they attend school and/or are jobless for a long time and then have to continue to support them after a divorce, when they are making more than enough money to make it on their own, kinda makes me sweat a bit. I was considering supporting a significant other in just such a way, even though it would be very financially tight if I had to support myself on my salary alone. Anyway.
    I know that in the vast majority of cases, there is much more to it than simply one person freeloading off of and completely taking advantage of the other, but I know of at least one case in my family where this describes pretty well what happened (anecdotal evidence, I know, and I have no knowledge of alimony arrangements, if any). I’m also wary of talk of “freeloaders,” and I just know there is more to these stories that we’re not getting. But I know that there ARE freeloaders out there who feel entitled to a certain lifestyle but don’t want to put any effort at all into being able to maintain themselves. I was taken advantage of one before (although his parents were the true enablers), briefly, before I came to my senses.
    After hearing men complain that the legal system (wrt marriage and children) isn’t fair to them and that women get all the advantages, I thought I’d be safe from such things. ;) Guess not!

  • ambidextrous amazon

    Just to clarify, thanks to those who gave me more information. I am full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, with all my worrying about worst case scenarios. Sometimes, I have to be reassured that overall, the system works. I’m curious about learning how the system works but I suppose that’s what google (and law school!) is for.
    Heather Nan, that’s an interesting take on it. And what about women who have a functioning (relatively speaking) uterus but who don’t intend to have children? I make it so that, while I am capable of becoming pregnant, it is very very unlikely. I guess we should get ourselves to the un-woman colonies. How dare we even think about taking advantage of the divine institution of marriage without intention or capacity to procreate. (Obviously, I think Lawrence Roach’s complaint is disingenuous and should be dismissed.)

  • becca

    I think legally, alimony has to continue here since it is part of the terms of a divorce and probably some sort of binding contract. However, since alimony is determined by the respective income and means of both partners, and the one I was paying alimony turned out to have the means for a very costly sex change operation, I would consider taking the whole thing back to court to argue that the person no longer needs alimony to maintain the quality of life they had become accustomed to through marriage. Seriously, alimony is one thing if it helps the disadvantaged partner get back on their feet, get education, training, etc. after a divorce, but… not that sexual identity is a frivolous thing. But, seriously, does “getting on your feet after a divorce” really require a sex change operation?

  • Mina

    “Heather Nan, that’s an interesting take on it. And what about women who have a functioning (relatively speaking) uterus but who don’t intend to have children?”
    …and what about children who can get pregnant? That angle is pretty ominous too, especially since giving the “you’re a woman now!!!” speech to a 10-year-old sometimes goes with the “you’re old enough to marry but too young to pick a man so we picked him for you and the wedding’s next week” attitude. :(

  • EG

    I’m really uncomfortable with that formulation, becca, because it does implicitly suggest that sex-change is frivolous, or unnecessary to the changer’s health and well-being, which is not my understanding of what it means to be trans at all. What if “turning out to have the means for a very costly sex change operation” meant saving up his whole life and going without other things that you or I might deem necessities? What if it meant taking out a loan that will take years to pay back? A sex-change operation isn’t like a face-lift. While many transpeople opt not to have those operations, many do, and for those that do, it’s not really a negotiable item; look at how much many of them sacrifice in order to have them.

  • Kattyben

    Becca, you could argue that in court if you liked, but I hope the court would reject it. Paying alimony doesn’t give the payor a veto over how payee chooses to spend the money. Period.
    Also, you’re assuming that all awards of alimony are rehabilitative (i.e., to help the payee get back on his/her feet). This is not the case.