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THE NEW MASSACHUSETTS ALIMONY STATUTE

On March 1, 2012, the new Massachusetts alimony statute went into effect, although many judges have been applying parts of it for the past year. For the first time, the duration of alimony in Massachusetts is limited by the number of years of marriage, and has a definite end date (absent an agreement to the contrary) tied to the Social Security retirement date. Cohabitation is also now finally grounds for termination of General Term alimony.

In addition to the above rules regarding what is called General Term Alimony, there are now three other types of alimony: Rehabilitative Alimony, Reimbursement Alimony, and Transitional Alimony. These can last up to five years, although Transitional Alimony is expected to be of a much more shorter duration.

An interesting wrinkle in the new Massachusetts alimony statute is language stating that income taken into account in calculating child support cannot be taken into account in calculating alimony. Since the Child Support Guidelines are calculated based on the first $250,000.00 of joint income, it appears to require that when the parent earning the most income has physical custody of the children, the other parent is not entitled to alimony, regardless of how low their earning capacity is, unless their combined income exceeds $250,000.00. The trial courts appear divided on this issue, and the appellate courts have not ruled on it yet.

As previously stated, the statute is new, and many of its provisions have not even been interpreted by sitting trial judges, let alone by the appellate courts. It will be interesting to see how the law in this area evolves, especially the interaction between alimony and child support. Since legal advice is always very fact-specific, and since the statute is only now being interpreted by sitting judges, you should always seek legal advice in this area if this issue affects your divorce.

 

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