New Massachusetts alimony law provides possible relief to paying spouses

Last year, Governor Deval Patrick signed a piece of legislation that has great impact for those in Massachusetts who are paying alimony. The new law, referred to as The Alimony Reform Act of 2012, changes every facet of alimony in Massachusetts, giving more assistance to those paying alimony support and acknowledging the changes that have occurred in society since the state's birth.

History of alimony

The idea of alimony, or spousal support, as it is sometimes now called, mostly likely began in England in the mid 1800's. It was at that time that divorce was first established as an option that extended beyond the upper ranks of society. While divorce was not unheard of in England, it was only possible through an Act of Parliament, and therefore only nobility were able to use it.

Even though the common man could now file for divorce, Parliament declared that the wife was still to be provided for by the ex-spouse, given the fact that women did not have the means to support themselves at that time. Thus, the concept of alimony was born and it soon spread to the colonial states.

Massachusetts and alimony

Until recently, Massachusetts law regarding alimony remained the same as it had upon its first implementation. Alimony was a life-long decree, a spouse only lost their alimony if they remarried, and alimony payments were relatively a large portion of the paying spouse's income.

The Alimony Reform Act changes those parameters, giving spouses ordered to pay alimony the opportunity to petition the court for a reduction or dismissal of the payments. Therefore, it's a good idea for anyone paying alimony and anyone considering divorce to familiarize themselves with the changes to Massachusetts' alimony laws.

The changes

Here is a simple list of the changes that were introduced in the new alimony law:

  • Alimony ends upon retirement age (currently at 66).
  • The length of the marriage now determines the length of time an ex-spouse receives alimony.
  • The income and property of a new spouse is no longer subject to alimony.
  • Alimony can be decreased or eliminated if the ex-spouse receiving it lives with a new partner for three months or more.
  • Spouses already paying alimony prior to the law changes can petition a court for their alimony order to be modified according to the new laws.

Relief for spouses paying alimony

The alimony reform law passed in Massachusetts means that ex-spouses can seek changes to their current alimony orders and those considering divorce may not have as onerous alimony obligations as in the past. If you pay or receive alimony or are considering divorce in Massachusetts and have questions about alimony, contact an experienced family law attorney to review your situation.

Unlike the wives of the 1800's, women today have more empowerment, social freedom, and economic possibility, making alimony no longer a need in every divorce case. For spouses paying alimony, they may want to seek out legal help in the Suffolk County area which can answer their questions and help them prepare a request for alimony modification.