Long Awaited Massachusetts Alimony Reform
The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 would bring time limits on alimony orders and enact fair and equitable alimony in the state, according to the MBA.
Massachusetts’ current alimony law does not have a limit on the duration of an alimony award, does not clearly address the issue of alimony payments upon retirement, and does not address cohabitation, among other shortcomings.
Angry alimony payers say they’ve been forced for years to pay large percentages of their incomes with no end in sight, according to the Boston Business Journal.
“There is a critical need for more consistent and predictable alimony orders in Massachusetts,” MBA President Denise Squillante said in a statement. “Families who may need alimony, or who may be affected by alimony judgments, deserve clear, statewide guidelines. Without such standards, deciding alimony will remain far too complex and emotionally-charged.”
The bill provides the change that is needed and was borne out of a collaborative effort of practitioners, jurists and those advocates who have lived the alimony experience, said the bill’s co-sponsor Rep. John D. Fernandes (D-Milford).
“The time for alimony reform is now,” he added.
According to a release from the bill’s co-sponsors, proposed reforms include:
Establishing separate alimony categories with clear definitions and set limits on duration.
The bill proposes new, clearly defined categories: (1) general term alimony, (2) rehabilitative alimony, (3) reimbursement alimony, and (4) transitional alimony.
Each category contains a concise definition along with a durational limit, giving payors and recipients a clear expectation of a finite period of time alimony will be paid and/or received. Further, for general term alimony, the default form of alimony, durational limits are based on the length of marriage, and now encompass short-term marriages (marriages for five years or less), which were often excluded from alimony awards in practice. However, the court retains its discretion to order indefinite alimony in certain cases.
Opportunities to terminate alimony at retirement.
The legislation provides, unless good cause is shown, that general alimony terminates upon the payor spouse reaching the age of full retirement. By terminating general term alimony at retirement, this enables both payors and recipients to plan for their own retirement.
Altering alimony when ex-spouses cohabitate with new partners.
This bill also makes recommendations regarding the issue of cohabitation with the goal of ending instances in which the payor spouse continues to support the recipient spouse while maintaining a life with another. Nonetheless, safeguards are included to protect the recipient spouse where appropriate.
Adding factors to consider in an alimony order.
This measure also provides a list of amended factors the court must consider when determining an alimony order. The factors chosen reflect a more comprehensive, effective and relevant list than the current law.