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Alimony Reform in Massachusetts

Lawmakers are working on legislation that Massachusetts divorce lawyers believe will make determining alimony / spousal support easier. The proposal, termed the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, could completely alter how alimony payments are determined in the Commonwealth. The new law sets forth three categories of maintenance payments and establishes guidelines for how long such payments should last.

General term alimony would entail regular payments to an economically dependent former spouse. A distressed spouse would receive rehabilitative alimony if he or she is expected to eventually become financially independent. Finally, reimbursement alimony would be paid to a spouse in a short-term marriage, or to a spouse who helped pay for the other spouse's education.

The law would also provide guidelines for spousal support payments. Factors such as the duration of marriage; the age and health of the parties; both parties' income, employment and employability (including employability through reasonable diligence and additional training); as well as each spouse's economic and non-economic contributions may be considered in crafting a decree. For marriages longer than 20 years, judges would have discretion to order such alimony and determine its duration.

A key component of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 addresses a longstanding fairness issue that has vexed those paying alimony for years. Alimony recipients have been circumventing the law by simply living with, and not marrying, life partners who support them financially. The new law would stop alimony payments in situations where recipients have established "common households" with other parties. Essentially, if an alimony recipient resides with another for more than three months, the payor may petition for relief.

Further, individuals may seek modification of current spousal support orders so that they conform with the new law. For questions about alimony modification or the proposed legislation, contact a family law attorney experienced in alimony.

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