A grassroots movement promoting reform of Massachusetts alimony laws and backed by the Massachusetts Bar Association is gaining momentum. Legislation introduced this year would set limits on the number of years and the amount of payments an ex-spouse can pay in alimony.
Attention to the law arose because of the efforts of Stephen Hitner, who founded the group Alimony Reform after declaring bankruptcy in part because of his obligation to pay $45,000 a year in alimony.
The proposed bill will include alimony term limits, specifically that:
- For marriages lasting longer than 20 years, alimony would end at age 66, the federal retirement age for Social Security
- For marriages of 5 years or less, alimony would not last any longer than half of the total months of the marriage
- For marriages of less than 10 years, no more than 60 percent of the duration of the marriage
- For marriages of less than 15 years, no more than 70 percent of the duration of the marriage
- For less than 20 years, no more than 80 percent of the duration of the marriage
Another provision in the bill would suspend, reduce or eliminate alimony if the person receiving support has been cohabitating with someone for three months or longer. The bill also proposes to limit alimony to no more than 35 percent of the difference between the parties’ gross incomes when alimony is ordered.
On June 3, 2011, the Massachusetts House Judiciary Committee reported favorably on the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, and sent it to the House Steering, Policy and Scheduling Committee. The bill has widespread support and is expected to pass.
Contact a Family Law Attorney
Unless and until the bill passes into law, however, a judge can still issue lifetime alimony. A judge takes into account the assets and earning power of spouses, as well as the length of the marriage to decide alimony payments. When going through a divorce, it is important to have an experienced attorney who can help to promote reasonable alimony, when necessary. Contact a local attorney for more information.