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Massachusetts reforms alimony, other states follow suit

Lawmakers in several states are discussing changes to their alimony laws on the heels of the recent sweeping reform in Massachusetts.

According to a recent news report, New Jersey and Florida are among the states that are considering updating legal guidelines for spousal support.

Alimony is money paid from one spouse to the other after a divorce. These payments allow the spouse with a lower-income to continue to meet his or her living expenses. Alimony laws differ from state to state, but they have been fairly similar across the country for decades - until now.

As we know, Massachusetts changed its alimony laws substantially this fall. The state's new laws include:

• Lifetime spousal support is no longer allowed in most cases. Alimony payments typically expire when the payer reaches retirement or when the payee moves in with a new partner.

• The length of alimony is directly related to the length of the marriage.

Massachusetts updated their alimony laws in an effort to keep up with changing demographics, in which family financial problems are common and many women work - often as the top earner in the household.

In Florida, critics think their proposed legislation is too drastic. A new bill would put a cap on spousal support at 20 percent of the payer's monthly income; it would also forbid a judge from considering adultery when awarding alimony.

Some think the legislation would hurt women who do not have careers, some of whom did not work at the requests of the husbands.

Even with the new laws in Massachusetts, there are no hard and fast rules to determine spousal support. There are several elements that are considered and it is important to be knowledgeable about your rights in order to look out for your best interests, whether you are a recipient or payer.

Source: ABC News, "Several states moving toward sweeping alimony reform," Ed Greenberger, Nov. 30, 2011

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