Saturday, March 26, 2011

Alimony Reform Act Part 2 - Types of Alimony

In Massachusetts, a judge can order alimony in a divorce or not. An award of alimony will last until there is a change of circumstances. The only way alimony can terminate based on a period of time is if the parties agree. Without such an agreement, alimony lasts until a party dies, the recipient remarries, or a change of circumstances exists.
The proposed Alimony Reform Act will allow different types of alimony. The bill will allow General Term Alimony, Rehabilitative Alimony, Reimbursement Alimony, and Transitional Alimony.
General Term Alimony is the equivalent of alimony under current law. However, under the new law, the court will limit alimony to a period of time unless the court makes findings that alimony should exceed the time limits. The time limits start at 50% of the length of the marriage for marriages under five years and can be indefinite for marriages over 20 years.
Rehabilitative Alimony provides support while a spouse acquires skills to become self-supporting. This will allow support while a spouse gets an education or job training.
Reimbursement Alimony is not based on need but provides compensation for support or other contribution to the family. It is not unusual for one spouse to sacrifice their education and work while the other spouse gets an education.
Transitional Alimony provides support while a spouse "transitions" to a new location or an adjusted lifestyle. Usually, this would be a one time payment. Under current law, a court can order payments of this nature but it would be part of a property division order and not alimony. Allowing payments of this nature as alimony will give Judges more flexibility in making judgments.
The proposed law, with different types of alimony, will provide more flexibility and more fairness in divorce decrees.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Alimony Reform Act of 2011 Part 1

In 2011 the Massachusetts legislature passed a law that changed  alimony  in  Massachusetts. The law is called the Alimony Reform Act of 2011.  I will discuss the proposed changes in this blog. I will post a number of articles as there are too many changes to discuss in one posting. The first topic will be the factors a court will consider when deciding an alimony issue.
Alimony is sometimes awarded when couples get divorced in Massachusetts.  It is controlled by G.L. c. 208, § 34.  The new bill, if passed, will be a complete overhaul of the law of alimony in the state.
I have created a chart which compares the alimony factors under present law and the proposed law which is included at the end of this article. The new law includes all of the factors that a judge must consider and may consider under current law and adds additional factors. However, the biggest change is a catch all concept that allows the judge to consider any additional factors as the court may deem relevant and material. There have been many decisions where judges have lamented the current limitations that restrict the factors to the those stated in G.L. c. 208, § 34. Under the new law, the Judges won’t have this limitation. This should result in fairer and more equitable results.
While the current factors are preserved, there is additional language that places an emphasis on certain behavior. Abuse that causes physical or mental harm that interferes with a party’s ability to earn income is specifically mentioned in the new law. It appears that health issues that effect one’s ability to earn money are emphasized in the new law as additional language is added to the health factor.
Under current law, alimony may be ordered by a Judge or not ordered. A Judge has no ability to limit an alimony award to a period of time. The proposed law will allow a Judge to impose time limitations. Thus a new factor will be considered: the appropriate period of time for alimony. This new concept in Massachusetts should create more just and fair alimony awards in divorces.


Current Law
G.L. c. 208, § 34.
Proposed Law
Alimony Reform Act of 2011
length of the marriage
length of the marriage
conduct of the parties during the marriage
conduct of the parties during the marriage including a party’s inability to provide for his or her own support by reason of physical or
mental abuse by the payor
health including advanced age; chronic illness; or unusual health circumstances of either party
station and marital lifestyle
ability of each party to maintain the marital
occupation and if a party is unemployed or underemployed
amount and sources of income and employability
both parties’ income, employment and employability, including employability through reasonable diligence and additional training
vocational skills
vocational skills
needs of the each of the parties
needs of the each of the parties
opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income
opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income
amount and duration of alimony
ability to pay alimony
economic or noneconomic contribution to the financial resources of the payor spouse and to the marriage
Significant premarital cohabitation that included economic partnership and/or
marital separation of significant duration
lost economic opportunity as a result of the marriage and a party’s inability to provide for his or her own support by reason of a party’s
deficiency’s of property, maintenance or employment opportunity

such other factors as the court may deem relevant and material
Tax considerations applicable to the parties
Whether the payor spouse is providing health insurance and the cost of heath insurance for the recipient spouse
Whether the payor spouse has been ordered to secure life insurance for the benefit of the recipient spouse and the cost of such insurance
Sources and amounts of unearned income, including capital gains, interest and dividends, annuity and investment income from assets that were not allocated in the parties divorce