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Edging forward: GOP legislation pushes fundamental alimony change

We occasionally provide reader updates on divorce-linked topics that are in flux and potentially affect legions of individuals and families across the country.

Alimony assuredly fits that bill at the moment, given its placement in a comprehensive tax bill that is front-page news this week.

We know that most of our Massachusetts readers are both interested in and attuned to the details of that plan, given its promised wide-ranging effects on American life.

From a family law perspective, the provision in the would-be legislation addressing alimony (also frequently called spousal support) is unquestionably interesting and wide-ranging in its ramifications.

Specifically, the bill that President Trump has stated he expects to sign into law "before Christmas" (please see our blog post dated November 7) provides for the complete elimination of any tax deduction for alimony payers. Those individuals have historically had such a benefit, and any closing of its loophole would obviously spell an important change.

Much has happened in the U.S. Congress in recent weeks. The GOP-controlled Senate and House have now inked a "final" version of the tax plan. If it is voted through this week, the no-deduction change to spousal support payers will affect all divorces concluded after December 31, 2018.

Statistically speaking, that would have a huge affect in Massachusetts and nationally. An estimated 600,000 individuals claimed a deduction in a recently reported year.

A deeper question attaches to whether - and, if so, to what extent -- the lapsed deduction will materially influence divorce negotiations and settlements. Although alimony does not feature in many divorces, it certainly does in some. And where that is the case, the details are obviously important.

The tax plan's outcome will soon be known. We will be sure to note for readers its implications for alimony and other important family law considerations.

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