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Could alimony reform be headed for reform?

As of March 1, 2012, people in Massachusetts paying alimony had a way out of those payments if any of the following applied:

  • When the payer reached retirement age
  • If the recipient married someone else or lived with someone else for at least three continuous months.

For some, alimony reform did not go far enough. Ex-spouses paying alimony who divorced before March 1, 2012, also wanted a way out of payments, but subsequent court cases that went all the way to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts determined that the new law was not intended to be retroactive. This was good news to recipients who might have negotiated their divorce differently if they knew that alimony could be terminated in the future. It wasn’t good news for those who couldn’t afford to or would rather not have to pay alimony into their golden years.

Reform efforts haven’t stopped. Another “re-reform” bill, H.740, is keeping the effort alive to terminate alimony under the same circumstances allowed by the 2012 reform bill. In other words, if H.740 gains traction, alimony recipients who divorced before March 1, 2012, and are either living with someone new or whose former spouse has reached retirement age could see their alimony payments evaporate.

It remains to be seen how far the re-reform bill will go. There are some who believe that the evolving reforms only serve to hurt women, even while acknowledging that lifetime alimony is impractical in most cases.

Clearly, alimony remains an emotional and controversial aspect of divorce. This is especially true for women who may have put aside their careers, sometimes at the request of a higher-earning spouse, to raise children and oversee a household. Placing a value on that contribution to married life, and accounting for a woman’s lost career opportunities are additional factors that must be considered when calculating alimony.

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