Alimony Reform Act of 2011

On September 26, 2011, Governor Deval Patrick signed the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 into law (which takes effect on March 1, 2012). This bill effectively “resets” alimony orders in Massachusetts including limits on the amount of alimony compensation a spouse can receive.

Some Highlights of the Modified Alimony Law include:

1. Alimony Term Limits

- 5 years or less: Maximum Alimony term is 50% of the number of months of marriage. However, “reimbursement alimony” would pay to compensate an ex-spouse who helped support the payer through school or job training and “rehabilitative alimony” would limit payments for ex-spouses who are expected to reach economic independence.

- 10 years or less but greater than 5 years: Maximum Alimony term is 60% of the number of months of marriage.

- 15 years or less but greater than 10 years: Maximum Alimony term is 70% of the number of months of marriage.

- 20 years or less but greater than 15 years: Maximum Alimony term is 80% of the number of months of marriage.

- Long term marriages (more than 20 years): Alimony will end at retirement age as defined by the Social Security Act.

* For marriages that last longer than five years, “transitional alimony” would help to equalize the payer and payee’s living standards after divorce.

2. A second spouse’s income and assets are excluded from consideration.

3. Co-habitation suspends, reduces, or terminates alimony.

4. Gross income is excluded from alimony when the court has already considered it when setting child support.

5. An alimony term is co-terminus with child support and the combined duration of alimony and child support shall not exceed the longer of: (a) the alimony duration available at the time of divorce; or (b) rehabilitative alimony commencing upon the termination of child support.

6. An alimony amount will generally not exceed the recipient’s need or thirty percent to thirty-five percent of the difference between the parties gross incomes established at the time of the order being issued.

7. A second job or overtime income is not included in alimony modification.

8. Payment of health insurance and/or life insurance reduces alimony payment.

9. Alimony ends with the remarriage of the alimony recipient.

Modifications can be made to existing alimony orders beginning on the following dates:

(1) Payors who were married to the alimony recipient 5 years or less, may file a modification action on or after March 1, 2013.

(2) Payors who were married to the alimony recipient 10 years or less, but more than 5 years, may file a modification action on or after March 1, 2014.

(3) Payors who were married to the alimony recipient 15 years or less, but more than 10 years, may file a modification action on or after March 1, 2015.

(4) Payors who were married to the alimony recipient 20 years or less, but more than 15 years, may file a modification action on or after September 1, 2015.

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