Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of 2011

The Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of 2011 is a major change to Massachusetts law, providing directives to judges issuing alimony beyond the vague “need of the recipient and ability to pay of the payor” standard.

This does not mean that alimony orders can be predicted by a simple formula. Alimony awards will still be based on judicial consideration of subjective factors, and judges will retain discretion to depart from the directives in appropriate cases. Due to the lack of precedent under the new law, I will be able to make creative arguments on your behalf, and the judge in your case will be able to decide if departure is warranted without being bound to decisions in similar cases.

Your financial security is too vital to defend without the representation of a family law attorney who will present every factor and argument available to you. It may be difficult or impossible to modify alimony once ordered. The court is barred from modifying some types of alimony, and limited to modifying other types only based on a material change in circumstances that arises after the initial order.

The Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of 2011 defines four types of alimony along with qualifications, durational limits, and standards governing modification for each:

  • General term alimony”, the periodic payment of support to an economically dependent recipient spouse.
Time limitations:
Marriage of 5 years or less:  Not longer than half the length of the marriage.
Marriage between 5 and 10 years: Not longer than 60% the length of the marriage.
Marriage between 10 and 15 years:Not longer than 70% the length of the marriage.
Marriage between 15 and 20 years:Not longer than 80% the length of the marriage.
Marriage longer than 20 years:Court may order for an indefinite period of time.
 

Existing alimony awards shall be deemed general term alimony. If you are the payor of an existing alimony award that exceeds these time limitations, contact my office to discuss whether you might be entitled to file a complaint for modification.

Cohabitation prior to marriage. The court can consider the length of the spouses’ economic partnership during cohabitation prior to marriage where to do so is in the interest of justice.

Cohabitation of recipient spouse. If the payor shows that the recipient spouse has been cohabitating with a new partner for three months, general term alimony shall be suspended, reduced, or terminated. The order can be reinstated if the cohabitation ends; however, the order shall not extend beyond the termination date of the original order.

Retirement of payor spouse. The Reform Act provides for general term alimony orders to terminate upon the payor reaching full retirement age as determined by the United States Old Age, Disability, and Survivors Insurance Act, 42 U.S.C. sec. 416. Whether the payor continues to work or is able to work will not be considered.

***If you have reached full retirement age, or will reach full retirement age before September 15, 2015, consult an attorney regarding your ability to file a complaint for modification of an existing alimony order that does not account for your retirement.

  • Rehabilitative alimony”, the periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is expected to become economically self-sufficient by a predicted time.
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  • Reimbursement alimony”, the periodic or one-time payment of support to after a marriage of not more than five years to compensate the recipient spouse for economic or noneconomic contribution to the financial resources of the payor spouse, such as enabling the payor spouse to complete an education or job training.
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  • Transitional alimony”, the periodic or one-time payment of support to after a marriage of not more than five years to transition the recipients spouse to an adjusted lifestyle or location as a result of the divorce.

I have researched the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of 2011, attended numerous conferences regarding the new law, and track emerging commentary by judges.

To discuss how Massachusetts Alimony Reform may affect you, call (978) 704-9223 or email Lance Law LLC to schedule a consultation.

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