Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act goes into effect March 1, 2012

The following is a summary of highlights of the new Alimony Reform law in Massachusetts.

Alimony: New Law Establishes Durational Limits

  • Long Term marriages (greater than 20 years): Alimony will end at retirement age as defined by 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 10 years: Maximum Alimony term is 80% of the number of months of marriage;
  • Other durational limits apply for “Rehabilitative Alimony,” “Reimbursement Alimony,” and “Transactional Alimony”;

Alimony Calculations: Second Spouse’s Income and Assets Excluded:

  • If the payor remarries, income and assets of the payor’s spouse shall not be considered in determining an alimony amount in a modification action.
  • 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…”
  • 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.”

Alimony: Maximum Amount Limited

  • “…the amount of alimony should generally not exceed the recipient’s need or between 30 and 35 percent of the difference between the parties gross incomes established at the time of the order being issued.”
  • Alimony: Second Job or Overtime Income 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

Insurance: Payment of Health Insurance and/or Life Insurance Reduces Alimony Obligation

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:
(1) Whether the payor spouse is providing health insurance and the cost of health insurance for the recipient spouse;
(2) Whether the payor spouse has been ordered to secure life insurance for the benefit of the recipient spouse and the cost of such insurance

Cohabitation: Suspends, Reduces, or Terminates Alimony

General Term Alimony shall be suspended, reduced or terminated upon the cohabitation of the recipient spouse when the payor shows that the recipient has maintained a common household with another person for a continuous period of at least three months.

Remarriage: Alimony Ends if Recipient Remarries

  • Alimony: Term Extensions 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 such an extension, the Court must enter written findings of:

(i) A material change of circumstances that occurred after entry of the alimony judgment; and
(ii) Reasons for the extension that are supported by clear and convincing evidence.

Modification of Orders Existing Prior to March 1, 2012: Permitted

If there are no other factors present in your circumstances warranting a modification, you may seek a modification as follows:

  • If married 5 years or less, on or after March 1, 2013;
  • If married 10 years or less, but more than 5 years, on or after March 1, 2014;
  • If married 15 years or less, but more than 10 years, on or after March 1, 2015;
  • If married 20 years or less, but more than 15 years, on or after March 1, 2015;
  • If any payor has reached full retirement age, or who will reach full retirement age on or before March 1, 2015, on or after March 1, 2013

You may review entire text of the new Alimony Reform law .

If you’re interested in learning about whether or not your current alimony is eligible or at risk for a modification, I would be happy to meet with you.