Alimony Reform In Massachusetts Gaining Momentum

House Will Soon Debate Merits of Ending Lifetime Alimony Payments

A long-anticipated reform of Massachusetts alimony laws has attracted much attention this session. After an informal and lightly attended House session approved the bill, a formal session to pass reform is scheduled in the House for sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Several previous reform attempts have failed to garner enough support to pass the House and Senate. This bill, however, has wide bipartisan support and looks to have a good chance of passing.

Among other provisions, the legislation would end the ability for judges to order lifetime alimony payments. It would limit the length of alimony according to the length of the marriage. For marriages lasting less than five years, it would prevent judges from ordering alimony for longer than 50 percent of the total months of the marriage. The percentage grows incrementally the longer the marriage lasts, to the point where marriages lasting longer than 20 years would still give the judge discretion as to the length of spousal support.

Recession Bringing Alimony Laws to Forefront

The legislature renewed its interest in alimony reform after hearing horror stories of divorced men and women paying lifetime alimony or large spousal support to their exes for short-term marriages, even if the ex was healthy and able to find employment. Examples include owners forced to declare bankruptcy in part due to a judge's rejection of a post-divorce modification, and parents with sole custody of the children who had to pay alimony to someone with no child care expenses and the ability to find work.

Another complaint regarding alimony is that household income is considered for those who remarry in modifying alimony, meaning that an ex-spouse who is laid off may still have to pay significant alimony due to the income of a second spouse.

While alimony reform in Massachusetts looks promising, currently there is no limit to the amount of alimony that a judge can order. If you are divorcing, seek an experienced family law attorney to represent you in court.