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Family Law Attorney

I provide experienced legal guidance in family law, divorce and special education law. I represent parents and families throughout western Massachusetts.

Are Massachusetts’ new alimony reform laws doing more harm than good?

In September of 2011, the governor of Massachusetts signed law into action that reformed the state's current alimony legislation. According to the Boston Business Journal, the purpose of this new alimony legislation was to restructure the way that alimony payments were calculated and to put limits on the amount of alimony recipients are able to receive.

A new standard for alimony

Massachusetts' new alimony laws particularly benefit those who have been in marriages for under10 years because this new law aligns the duration of alimony payments with how long a marriage lasted. In addition to this, this new reform:

  • Only requires alimony payments to be made to an ex-spouse for the time period their marriage lasted, in marriages that lasted five years or less.
  • In marriages lasting ten years or longer, alimony payments only have to be made for 60 percent of the length of the marriage.
  • Sets up ways for alimony payments to be adjusted by appeal.

In addition to these new requirements, this new reform also takes other factors into accounts when it comes to calculating the amount the alimony payments will be, like the earning potential of each partner that was involved in the dissolved marriage.

Two sides to every story

Although this new alimony reform is advantageous for those couples who weren't married for very long and gives a way for divorcees to repeal alimony payments, some Massachusetts residents are unable to benefit simply because the new laws aren't being enforced. For example, a little more than a year ago, a man was put in jail because he could not come up with the $20,000 he needed to pay for his wife's lawyer during their divorce proceedings, even though he was unemployed at the time, says the Boston Globe.

The man, after coming up with the money, protested the courts on the grounds of the new alimony laws not being enforced. Despite his protests, he was still ordered by the Massachusettes courts to pay his ex-wife $4,000 a month in alimony payments.

Although lack of enforcement in some cases is causing those required to pay alimony, those who had initially received and relied on it are also finding that they can no longer depend on alimony to support themselves. For example, according to wcvb.com, a 70 year old woman had been receiving alimony payments since her divorce in 1966. However, shortly after this new law was enacted, the woman was served with a paper stating that her ex-spouse wanted to reduce or eliminate her alimony. As a result, the woman lost both her medical insurance and alimony payments.

If you and your spouse are considering divorce and you are concerned about your financial security post-divorce, contact an attorney that can protect your best interests.

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Claudette-Jean Girard, Attorney at Law
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