New Massachusetts Alimony Law Sets New Limits

Often divorce is associated with the start of a new beginning, but sometimes the court assigns alimony or spousal support for the give-and-take of marriage. The obligation of alimony may impede the feeling of a new beginning for some, but a new alimony law in Massachusetts may help those who divorce gain needed financial separation.

Massachusetts' Old Alimony Law

At the end of September, Gov. Deval Patrick signed a new alimony law that limits lifetime alimony payments. Many regarded the previous system of alimony in Massachusetts as outdated because of the heavy burden a judge could impose on an ex-spouse. The old law was also in opposition to the type of alimony laws in a majority of states.

The previous alimony law in Massachusetts frequently required the continued payment of alimony after the retirement of the paying spouse and even after the spouse who received alimony resided with a new partner. In short, the old law allowed for the possibility of lifelong alimony payments after the conclusion of short and long marriages.

The New Alimony Law in Massachusetts

The new alimony system in Massachusetts mostly eliminates the payment of alimony beyond the beginning of retirement. The new law also differentiates between short and long marriages. The alimony law establishes limits on the duration of alimony based on the length of marriage.

For example, the limit on the length of payment for a couple that divorces after 15 or 20 years of marriage is up to 80 percent of the marriage's length. Therefore the alimony payment limit for a former spouse who was married for 20 years is 16 years.

Shorter marriages have length of payment limits too. The length of alimony limit for a marriage of five years or less is up to half of the marriage's length. At most the longest a former spouse who was married for five years would pay is two and one-half years.

Some in Favor, Others Not

While many people recognize the benefit of reforming the old alimony law in Massachusetts, some family law attorneys in the state already question the new law's specificity when it comes to determining the length of alimony. Many believe the law went too far in defining rigid deadlines of when alimony ceases. Critics prefer alimony standards that are easier to mold to specific situations.

Said an adjunct professor at New England Law of Boston in The New York Times, "It's kind of a one size fits all, [and] I'm worried that the hard lines . . . will become the rule."

The new alimony law in Massachusetts has created new territory in the divorce world. If you are considering or going through divorce, contact a Massachusetts divorce attorney to answer your questions regarding alimony.