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Alimony considerations for Massachusetts residents

In any divorce, both parties are likely to have questions and concerns about finances. This may be especially true in cases where one spouse dropped out of the workforce to care for children or where one spouse makes considerably more money than the other. When the impending dissolution of a marriage could leave an individual at a considerable economic disadvantage, issues related to alimony should be explored and addressed.

Prior to 2012, under certain circumstances, Massachusetts spousal support law allowed judges to award lifetime alimony. Four year ago, an alimony reform bill was passed which, barring special circumstances, abolished lifetime alimony and also established specific payment durations for marriages that lasted less than 20 years.

Additionally, the bill included provisions which allow payees to stop making payments upon reaching full retirement age. The law also established more rigid rules with regard to suspending, reducing or stopping the payment of alimony to individuals who cohabit with a partner for three or more months.

The reforms were an attempt to modernize what many considered to be an outdated alimony law that failed to account for the fact that, today, a significant percentage of women work outside the home and earn incomes equal to or greater than their husbands. However, in the years since the alimony reform bill's passage, there have been inconsistencies with how the law is interpreted. This has been especially true in cases where individuals, in light of the reforms, sought modifications for existing spousal support orders.

In any divorce, it's important to address issues related to alimony. In some cases, it may actually be more advantageous for an economically disadvantaged spouse to seek additional income via the distribution of investment or retirement assets. An attorney who is familiar with the state's alimony law can review an individual's case and work to negotiate a divorce settlement that meets his or her current and future financial needs.

Source: The Boston Globe, "New Mass. alimony law a 'model'--but it is working?" Bella English, Oct. 20, 2013

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