In September of 2011, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed the Alimony Reform Act of 2011. The new law radically altered the state’s alimony laws and supporters of the new law claim that the change was necessary to update the state’s “outdated” alimony system to make it fairer. Massachusetts residents should be aware of the changes under the new Act, which are set to go into effect on March 1, 2012, and how the laws may impact them in the event of divorce.
New Limits on the Duration of Alimony
One of the biggest changes that the Act instituted is a time limit on alimony awards. Previously, courts were able to award lifetime alimony payments to one spouse, requiring the payor spouse to continue paying even after retirement. Now the duration of alimony awards will be based on the length of the marriage:
- Married five years or fewer: Alimony awards may not last longer than 50 percent of the length of the marriage.
- Married six to 10 years: Alimony awards may last for up to 60 percent of the length of the marriage.
- Married 15 to 20 years: The law limits alimony awards to 80 percent of the length of the marriage.
Calculating Alimony in Massachusetts
The new law changes the way that the court calculates the amount of alimony payments as well. The court will no longer include income from a second spouse when determining the amount the payor spouse owes. Additionally, the law states that the award should not exceed the recipient’s actual need, or 30 to 35 percent of the difference between the parties’ gross incomes. If a payor spouse provides health or life-insurance payments, that amount now counts in alimony calculations, too.
The new Act also includes provisions for ending alimony payments if the recipient spouse cohabitates with a new partner. Under the previous law, alimony only ended when the payee spouse remarried.
Categories of Alimony
The new law also created different types of alimony awards. The classification system will also help judges put time limitations on alimony awards.
- Reimbursement alimony: In marriages that lasted five years or fewer, and one spouse supported the other through school or job training, the spouse may receive reimbursement for that expense.
- Rehabilitative alimony: When the court believes the spouse will be self-supporting after a certain amount of time, the court may award rehabilitative alimony for support until he or she reaches economic self-sufficiency.
- Transitional alimony: In marriages lasting more than five years, where the court does not expect a spouse to reach the earning capacity of the other in a given amount of time, the court may award transitional alimony to help equalize the parties’ standards of living for a set amount of time.
Determining alimony awards can be complex, as the court must consider many factors when making a decision. If you are going through a divorce, talk to an experienced divorce lawyer who can discuss your situation with you and advise you of your options.