Alimony Reform Act of 2011

Over one year ago, Massachusetts established a task force to review alimony laws and how the system affects those paying and receiving support in Massachusetts. The result was the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, introduced to change what many have referred to as an archaic system.

According to a Milford Daily News report, State Rep. Jon Fernandez says the Alimony Reform Act will address issues lacking in the current system. Fernandez notes that the bill ties alimony to the length of marriage, something which the current law does not do. Current alimony awards can have lifetime impacts on payors. With the new law linking the length of marriage to payments, legislators are hoping it will provide more fairness to all parties.

Lawmakers were also concerned about cohabitation. A Boston Business Journal report notes that under the present law a person can still receive alimony payments if he or she is living with their new partner but remains unmarried - even if the new partner provides financial support for that person.

Types of Alimony Introduced

The bill introduces new categories of alimony, which lawmakers hope will give judges more discretion in setting the amount and terms of awards.

  • General Term Alimony - includes periodic payments to an ex-spouse who is economically dependent
  • Rehabilitative - periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is expected to become economically self-sufficient by a predicted time
  • Reimbursement - which is intended to compensate the recipient for economic or noneconomic contributions to the marriage, including enabling the payor spouse to complete an education or training
  • Transitional - intended to help with the transition or a different lifestyle or location

At a May hearing, over 200 witnesses testified in support of the bill, which also has the support of various bar associations and numerous lawmakers.

The new law is a significant departure from the current system. For those who may be affected by the proposed changes or for those who are going through divorce and need advice, speak with an experienced family law attorney.