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Update on key alimony reforms: 2019 looming large

Alimony has been a hot-button family law topic for many months now. We noted that in a recent blog post, noting in our December 19 entry from last year President Trump's pledge to sign a congressional bill into law "before Christmas."

Well, he did precisely that. We stressed in the above post that we would timely address the law's "implications for alimony and other important family law considerations" in a timely manner. That moment reasonably seems to be right now, in the near wake of enactment and with the proverbial smoke having lifted a bit to reveal the clear details of what are unquestionably big alimony-linked changes.

Here's one: Alimony tax deductions for payers in Massachusetts and nationally are off the shelf starting January 1 of next year. That key benefit will simply no longer exist.

And here's another, in the form of a reciprocal adjustment: The loss of a deduction will be coupled from that same date with the termination of a duty upon recipients to claim spousal maintenance as taxable income.

Those changes flatly reverse what has been legal bedrock since World War II. Readers seeking in-depth reports and articles spotlighting the political and tax-driven reasons that allegedly underlie new law can easily find a voluminous amount of information online.

What we stress here is the natural outpouring of questions that many individuals contemplating divorce or currently in the process of marital dissolution might reasonably seek answers to. Is it better for a payer to move with dispatch toward divorce now or, rather, to negotiate alimony terms pursuant to new law next year? Will a recipient fare better in an alimony-linked divorce this year or in 2019?

Every case is different, of course. An experienced divorce attorney can address specific circumstances and provide candid legal guidance concerning both current law and slated changes that will soon supplant it.

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