Joyce Votes for Overhaul of State Alimony Law

BOSTON – The Senate on Thursday approved significant reforms to the Commonwealth’s alimony law, simplifying and clarifying current definitions and requirements based on recommendations from a special task force that worked hundreds of hours researching the issue, Senator Brian A. Joyce announced. Senator Joyce was a co-sponsor of the bill.
The legislation presents clear categories of alimony, including general term alimony which is the default form of alimony whereby payments are made to an economically dependent former spouse for a length of time based on the years of a marriage, including short-term marriages of five years or less, which traditionally have been excluded.
For example, if a marriage was five years or less, alimony would be required for no more than one-half of the years married. The length of time for alimony increases with the years of marriage. Alimony for a marriage that lasted more than 15 years, and up to 20, could be ordered for up to 80 percent of the number of months married.
Under the bill, the court would also have discretion to order alimony indefinitely for marriages that lasted more than 20 years. Conversely, general term alimony payments could be reduced, suspended or terminated upon the remarriage or cohabitation of the recipient, the payer reaching the full age of retirement, or the death of either former spouse.
The other categories of alimony in the bill are rehabilitative alimony (payment to recipient expected to become self-sufficient by a specific time), reimbursement alimony (payment to recipient who supported payer in some way during marriage less than five years) and transitional alimony (payment to recipient for change in location after marriage less than five years). Each category contains precise definitions and durational limits to provide a clear expectation of how long alimony will be paid.
The bill also contains protections for alimony recipients who have been abused, are chronically ill, or have been deemed unable to find employment. Additionally, it allows the opportunity for existing court-ordered alimony to be modified to conform with the new standards set out in the bill.
The special alimony task force was appointed on October 7, 2009 to review pending alimony reform bills in the legislature’s judiciary committee. After more than a year’s worth of research and testimony, the task force made recommendations, upon which the Senate bill was based.
The measure will now be reconciled with the House of Representative’s version of the bill prior to being sent to the Governor for his signature.