Massachusetts Alimony Reform
The end of lifetime alimony awards moved one step closer to becoming law when Massachusetts lawmakers in the state House of Representatives recently approved a bill intended to reform the alimony system in that state. The lawmakers voted to approve the bill that would end the practice of “lifetime alimony” payments that are often ordered by Massachusetts judges in divorce cases.
In addition to eliminating lifetime alimony awards, the bill will also put limits on the number of years that alimony payments will continue to be paid as well as setting limits on how much one spouse can be ordered to pay another after a divorce. The new legislation would mandate that in the case of marriages lasting 5 years or less, the maximum term for alimony payments would be exactly half of the number of months the couple was married. For those marriages in Massachusetts lasting over 15 years, the bill would cap the maximum alimony term at 80% of the total number of months the marriage lasted.
Both supporters of the new bill and critics of the current alimony system say the present system in Massachusetts is antiquated, arbitrary and leaves little room for modification, even when the financial circumstances of the payer change for the worse. They point to the fact that the current system actually serves as a disincentive to settle many divorce cases because it often creates unnecessary friction between spouses.
The new bill is supported by several leading legal groups in the state including the Women’s Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association and the Massachusetts Bar Association.” Several attempts at Massachusetts alimony reform bills have failed to pass in the past, but the recent economic downturn has encouraged lawmakers there to put alimony on the forefront of the legislative agenda in order to level the playing field and reduce the number of people struggling with lifetime alimony payments. That the bill has passed in the House of Representatives is a good start, but the measure still must be considered by the Massachusetts State Senate before it can be signed into law.