Massachusetts Continues Talks of Alimony Reform

  • Massachusetts lawmakers look to reform their 2011 alimony reform law.
  • Alimony length is a major point of contention.
  • Critics feel that the reform measures might target women.

For many who have been divorced for a number of years, making alimony payments becomes like paying taxes: a task that no one likes to do, but because of how long you have had to do it, it becomes budgeted for. For others, it can drain the last remains of their bank account, leaving them financially crippled and unable to recover.

Many states would like to look into ways of reforming how alimony can affect the finances of individuals who have long-since divorced. The state of Massachusetts recently has been adjusting various laws to help those facing alimony payments and looking for relief.

2011 reform

There was a reform to how alimony worked in the state of Massachusetts in 2011. Before the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, alimony law in the state came from 18th century English law, which included the perspective that wives were the property of their husbands, according to the Worcester Telegram.

However, the reform created a much needed change to what the laws and regulations involved were based on, as well as how alimony was handled. The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 drastically changed lengths of payments, how much is paid, how modification works, and how life circumstances can affect it, according to The 190th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

According to the Newburyport Daily News, recent rulings by the Supreme Judicial Court have held that older divorce settlements could be changed based on marriage length, but not because a recipient starts living with someone else or the payer reaches retirement age. These rulings have bound people who were divorced before the 2011 reform to the old rules.

This is seen as a loophole to the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, which ended lifetime alimony payments and capped how much one spouse is required to pay the other.

Correcting a mistake

Lawmakers who helped construct the law are attempting to correct some of their mistakes with a proposal that would allow ex-spouses who have been paying alimony the ability to ask a judge to end the agreement when they reach retirement age. The state House passed a bill previously addressing this, but the bill died in a state Senate committee.

The reforms that they look to pass state how long alimony should last and create different types of alimony with varying durations, depending on each spouse’s finances and the length of the marriage. For a marriage that lasts for five years or less, alimony payments would be made no longer than one half the number of months of the marriage, as an example.

Mixed opinions

The need to reform the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 has been met with divided opinions. Some find that the issue pits genders against one another, considering cutting off alimony payments to spouses would affect women, who historically have been on the receiving end of the payments and creating new regulations to stop payments at a certain point would benefit men, who historically have been the payors.

Others compare the reform to a changing of a contract. They see it as a way of getting out their responsibilities and have said that it is damaging to stay-at-home mothers.

Alimony elsewhere

However, it is important to remember the financial commitment that goes into alimony payments in other states. For example, in the state of New York, alimony is set at 30 percent of the higher-earning spouse’s income, minus 20 percent of the lower-earning spouse’s, as long as the recipient does not end up with more than 40 percent of the couple’s combined income, according to The New York Times.

In the state of California, for marriages that last less than ten years, permanent alimony lasts no longer than half of the length of the marriage.

Alimony in Massachusetts

Whereas in the state of Massachusetts, there are different percentages that fluctuate with the number of years that you were married, according to the state of Massachusetts. For marriages that lasted five years or less, alimony cannot be required for more than 50 percent of the number of months you were married. For marriages that lasted 10 years or less, the percentage is more than 60 percent. For marriages that lasted 15 years or less, the percentage is more than 70 percent. For marriages that lasted 20 years or less, the percentage is more than 80 percent, and if the marriages lasted more than 20 years, the court can award alimony for as long as the judge thinks is fair.

Alimony stops in the state of Massachusetts if either spouse dies, the spouse receiving the alimony gets married again, or the spouse paying the alimony reaches full retirement age, unless the judge orders something different. However, if you are receiving alimony and begin living with a partner for at least three months, your alimony also can be reduced or stop.

A judge also can choose to continue alimony, if it is supposed to end. The receiving end must file a Complaint for Modification alongside their Massachusetts-based attorney, but you can file one if a material change of circumstances has occurred after your alimony was decided or there is clear and convincing evidence for the extension.

It is important for the financial future of both parties that alimony regulations continue to be examined. In order to secure a better financial future for the divorced spouses and the children that they may raise, there needs to be the ability to recover from the payment plan and better one’s self financially. A divorced individual who has been asked to provide alimony should not face that responsibility forever.

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