Questions arise over model alimony law in Massachusetts

Readers of our Massachusetts family law blog are likely aware that the state adopted a new alimony law nearly two years ago. Hailed as model alimony reform, the law was meant to replace an old system tarnished with abuse. Its purpose was to prevent inequities, by doing largely away with life-long alimony payments and alimony in short-term marriages. Instead, the alimony reform was meant to encourage financial independence and grant spousal support on an as-need basis.

The alimony reform is clear that it curbs lifetime alimony payments and sets specific limits on alimony for marriages lasting 20 years or less. Alimony is also to end when the recipient has been living with a new partner for at least three months or when the payor reaches full retirement age. Despite the law’s improvements, questions are being raised as to how consistently it is being interpreted and enforced.

The experience of one former Massachusetts resident demonstrates the struggles associated with the enforcement of the new law. One year ago, he was sentenced to 120 days in a Cambridge jail for failing to pay his ex-wife’s $20,000 legal bill stemming from the couple’s divorce proceeding. He spent six days in jail until family and friends raised the funds. He has since been ordered to pay $4,000 per month in alimony. However, he has been unemployed for two years and is living on Social Security. The man says he does not have the money to pay the alimony, so he moved to a Cherokee Indian reservation prior to the finalization of his divorce.

Although the new alimony law was enacted to prevent inequities, concerns undoubtedly still exist as to its enforcement and interpretation. Residents can best protect their legal rights by contacting a Central Massachusetts Family Law Attorney. Family law attorneys work daily on issues concerning alimony and spousal maintenance. Being proactive is often the best way to protect one’s financial interests.

Source: The Boston Globe, “New Mass. Alimony law a ‘model’ – but is it working?,” Bella English, Oct. 20, 2013