The new Massachusetts Alimony Reform Law was signed by Governor Patrick on September 26, 2011. This new law sets limits on the duration of alimony awards, where previously there had been none, and also eliminates lifetime alimony in short and medium length marriages. The previous system allowed judges to award lifelong alimony no matter the length of the parties’ marriage and payments often continued after the recipient spouse began cohabitating with a new partner or the payor spouse retired.
Reforming the alimony system in Massachusetts has been a much discussed and anticipated event in the legal community as Massachusetts has characteristically been seen as a state with conflicting alimony laws which left judges, lawyers and spouses confused and frustrated. In Massachusetts, alimony possibilities have been almost limitless, with lifetime alimony being a real possibility.
The new legislation will clarify alimony regulations for both lawyers and judges and will enable judges to properly and fairly tailor alimony awards to a couple’s individual circumstances. The law establishes a formula for alimony based on the length of the marriage. Alimony will now be calculated in much the same fashion as child support.
Some provisions of the new alimony law include:
1) If the duration of marriage is 5 years or less, general term alimony shall be no greater than one-half the number of months of the marriage;
2) The court shall have discretion to order alimony for an indefinite length of time for marriages longer than 20 years;
3) General term alimony shall be suspended, reduced or terminated upon the cohabitation of the recipient spouse when the payor shows that the recipient has maintained a common household with another person for a continuous period of at least 3 months.
The new alimony law is effective for alimony judgments entered on or after March 1, 2012. Those paying alimony who wish to file for a modification have designated waiting periods to limit the influx of modification filings in the probate and family courts.
If you have questions concerning your divorce, or how the new law may impact your existing spousal support order, gather your current paperwork and schedule a meeting with the attorneys at Vaughn-Martel Law.