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John Cleese struggling to meet alimony obligations

Massachusetts residents and comedy fans would likely recognize John Cleese as the outrageously funny Monty Python actor staring in many television shows and popular films. Recently, the news has exploded with information regarding the actor's eye-catching alimony obligations.

Apparently, Cleese is struggling somewhat to pay alimony awarded to his third wife, which amounted to $13 million in cash and nearly $1 million each year until 2016. The divorce was finalized in a U.S. court in 2008, but this has not eased the pain of his financial obligations. In fact, he had to scale down his fourth nuptials to a 41-year-old British jewelry designer. He has also taken other drastic measures to remain current in his payments, including selling some of his TV and film memorabilia. The actor previously moved to Monaco to lower his tax obligations.

As in many states, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts sets alimony amounts to limit the unfair economic effects of a divorce on one party when the other former spouse earns far more income. Generally set in monthly payments, it provides ongoing income to the party who earns a lower wage, or no wage at all. Considerations are based on factors like the physical condition, age, financial condition and emotional states of the spouses. The court reviews the amount of time it would take for the lower-income party to complete the education or training necessary to reach a comparable earning potential. The length of the marriage and the standard of living during the marriage is a deciding factor, along with the ability of the wage earner to pay alimony and still support themselves.

Even though the same basic deciding factors still hold weight in setting payments within alimony cases, in 2011, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed the Act Reforming Alimony in the Commonwealth into law. This bill set a schedule for alimony payments, based on the length of the marriage, for individuals formerly paying or receiving lifetime awards and wished to seek a modification of the original court order. An attorney experienced in family and marital law can advise Massachusetts residents on how this new law might affect their current or future alimony payment arrangements.

Source: The Huffington Post, "John Cleese, 'Monty Python' Actor, Selling TV And Film Memorabilia To Defray Divorce Costs," Jan. 22, 2013

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