Alimony Beyond Durational Limits

The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 established durational term limits for general term alimony for marriages less than twenty years in length. The law also permitted Alimony Payors to file Modification Complaints seeking to termination general term alimony if such durational limits had been exceeded. The law established a blanket exception for durational term limits if an alimony recipient could show that the durational limit should be extended for good cause shown. In the case of Barcalow v. Barcalow, the trial judge found that a disabled alimony recipient was entitled to continue receiving alimony payments beyond the durational limits.

The Court found that although the durational limits had been exceeded, the Court in this case was required to examine whether or not a deviation from the durational limits was warranted. The Court held that given the recipient’s advanced age and cognitive limitations resulting from a head injury that occurred prior to the divorce, a deviation was in fact warranted. The Court further held that terminating alimony in this instance would violate the longstanding policy against doing so would force the recipient spouse to become dependent on the state for support. The trial judge found that the Alimony Reform Act had not changed the prior case law that held if a spouse was a public charge and the other spouse could pay, alimony should be ordered.

The Court also rejected the Payor’s additional arguments that a reduction or termination was warranted due to the Payor’s prospective retirement. The Court found that such was a factor to consider in terms of terminating alimony but was not a basis for doing so because the Reform Act does not apply to judgments entered before the law was enacted. This finding is consistent with prior case law on this issue that has held that the retirement age portion of the act is not retroactive.