The Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act was enacted 2011 and became effective March 1, 2012. This law completely revolutionized the way alimony is awarded in the Commonwealth in duration, amount, and termination. As a result, many existing orders (those issued prior to enactment) may be modified as a result.
One of the most significant changes brought about by this act was the durational limits a spouse may receive alimony. In the past, alimony was sometimes awarded for an indefinite period even when marriages lasted less than 20 years. The current law requires couples to have been legally married for at least 20 years before alimony can be awarded for an indefinite time period. Those who were married less than 20 years may receive spousal support for a period of time ranging between 50% and 80% of the number of months the parties were married.
In the past, alimony terminated on the death of either party or the remarriage of the recipient. Now, alimony terminates upon death, remarriage, expiration of the specific durations, and certain conditions including if recipient cohabitates with another person for a period of time that exceeds three months. A judge may order a termination or suspension of the payor’s alimony obligation under these circumstances. In most instances, payments will automatically cease when the spouse who is ordered to pay reaches full retirement age as defined by the Social Security Administration, whether the payor continues to work or not.
The amount of alimony awarded under the new guidelines should fall between 30% and 35% of the difference between the adjusted gross incomes of the parties. These new guide posts provide greater clarity, and break for the tradition of using a third of the payor’s income, regardless of the recipient’s income. A modification can be requested in the event that there is a material change in circumstances such as the loss of a job or disability that limits one’s ability to work.
Modifying alimony can be a somewhat complicated process, as there are a number of factors that come into play when doing so. The time frame for filing can also vary based upon the number of years the couple was married. Contact us to find out if and when you might be able to benefit from these recent changes in state law.