A Time for Change: Measure Reforming Alimony Is Certainly History in the Making
March 12, 2012
Get ready payors and recipients, a new statute is in town, and after so many years it’s finally about alimony. In a historic move, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law An Act Reforming Alimony in the Commonwealth (the act,) which goes into effect March 1, 2012. This Massachusetts statutory law, known as M.G.L. c. 208, §§ 48-55 inclusive, defines alimony, classifies it prospectively into four categories, and applies retroactively to existing orders. Gone are the days of unjustified lifetime alimony awards, the extension of alimony past the payor’s retirement age, and the ability of a recipient spouse to receive alimony during their cohabitation with another.
Understandably, judges and lawyers alike are both excited and nervous with such a tremendous new practice tool. From the court’s perspective, the apprehension is in both its ability to handle the imminent floodgate of litigation, and in the amount of judicial discretion inherent in the wording of the statute itself. From the lawyers’ perspective, it’s the unknown judicial interpretation of the law to each specific fact pattern, coupled with the technical skill it will take to make effective arguments about how the law applies to each case.
In an attempt to preserve judicial discretion, balance consistency with flexibility, encourage settlement, provide finality, and for the comingled effect of situations where there is child support, this law has potential loopholes and room for creative arguments, much to the dismay of those who seek determinative rules for dealing with the one issue that arguably creates the largest amount of contested divorce litigation.
Specifically, the Act is designed to accomplish the following: …
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March 12. 2012