Massachusetts Alimony Reform Law

Massachusetts alimony laws have undergone sweeping changes.

The Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of 2011, approved by the Legislature and signed by Governor Deval Patrick, became effective March 2012.

Alimony is the payment of support from a spouse – who has the ability to pay – to a spouse in need of support for a reasonable length of time, under court order.

The new alimony law establishes guidelines for alimony payments and limits the duration of payments, ending “lifetime alimony” which was often ordered in divorce cases. Prior to this change in Massachusetts alimony law, there were no limitations on how long a spouse could receive alimony or the amount to be paid.

The Massachusetts alimony reform does not do away with alimony. Instead, it is awarded like child support where set guidelines are based on the length of the marriage and the income of both parties. Modifications, exceptions, and judicial discretion are warranted under special circumstances.

Massachusetts Alimony Reform Law Summary

The following summary, available at MassAlimonyReform.org, briefly outlines the new Massachusetts alimony guidelines:

  1. Alimony Term Limits
    • Long term marriages (more than 20 years): Alimony will end at retirement age as defined by the Social Security Act.
    • 5 years or less: Maximum Alimony term is 50% of the number of months of marriage.
    • 10 years or less but greater than 5 years: Maximum Alimony term is 60% of the number of months of marriage.
    • 15 years or less but greater than 10 years: Maximum Alimony term is 70% of the number of months of marriage.
    • 20 years or less but greater than 15 years: Maximum Alimony term is 80% of the number of months of marriage.
    • Other term limits apply for “Rehabilitative Alimony, “Reimbursement Alimony”, and “Transitional Alimony”.
  2. Second Wife’s (Husband’s) Income and Assets Excluded
    “In the event of the payer’s remarriage, income and assets of the payer’s spouse shall not be considered in a re-determination of alimony in a modification action.”
  3. Co-Habitation Suspends, Reduces, or Terminates Alimony
    “General Term Alimony shall be suspended, reduced or terminated upon the cohabitation of the recipient spouse when the payer shows that the recipient has maintained a common household with another person for a continuous period of at least three months.”
  4. Child Support: Gross Income is Excluded From Alimony
    For purposes of setting an alimony order, the court shall exclude from its income calculation gross income which the court has already considered for setting a child support order…”
  5. Child Support: Alimony Term is Co-Terminus with Child Support
    “Where the Court orders alimony concurrent with or subsequent to a child support order, the combined duration of alimony and child support shall not exceed the longer of: (i) the alimony duration available at the time of divorce; or (ii) rehabilitative alimony commencing upon the termination of child support. “
  6. Alimony Amount is Limited
    “… the amount of alimony should generally not exceed the recipient’s need or 30 percent to 35 percent of the difference between the parties gross incomes established at the time of the order being issued.”
  7. A Second Job or Overtime Income is Not Included in Alimony Modification
    “Income from a second job or overtime work shall be presumed immaterial to alimony modification if:
    (1) A party works more than a single full-time equivalent position; and
    (2) The second job or overtime commenced after entry of the initial order.”
  8. Payment of Health Insurance and/or Life Insurance Reduces Alimony Payment
    In setting an initial alimony order, or in modifying an existing order, the court may deviate from duration and amount limits for General Term Alimony and Rehabilitative Alimony upon written findings that deviation is necessary. Grounds for deviation may include:
    (3) Whether the payer spouse is providing health insurance and the cost of health insurance for the recipient spouse;
    (4) Whether the payer spouse has been ordered to secure life insurance for the benefit of the recipient spouse and the cost of such insurance;
  9. Alimony Term Extensions Are Limited And Require Clear And Convincing Evidence
    “The court may grant a recipient an extension of an existing alimony order for good cause shown. In granting extension, the court must enter written findings of:
    (i) A material change of circumstance that occurred after entry of the alimony judgment; and (ii) Reasons for the extension that are supported by clear and convincing evidence.
  10. Alimony Ends with the Remarriage of the Alimony Recipient

The overhaul of Massachusetts alimony law is aimed at fairness for both parties in the 21st century.

The changes set forth by the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of 2011 affects many. If you are considering, going through, or are dealing with the lingering effects of your divorce, call the divorce lawyers at Revelli & Luzzo in Worcester, MA.

We have experience handling Massachusetts alimony cases with a proven track record of success for our clients. Call us with any concerns you may have about Massachusetts alimony and what it means for you. We can help.

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