Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of 2011

by Michael J. Serduck for Pioneer Valley Legal Directory

In 2011, the Massachusetts Legislature enacted an alimony reform law, with an effective date of March 1, 2012.

This act (for the first time) set out four statutory categories of alimony, which are:

Transitional Alimony: which is for marriages of less than five years and has the purpose of transitioning a recipient spouse to an adjusted life style. Transitional alimony is limited to a maxiumum of three years.

Reimbursement Alimony: which is for marriages of less than five years and exists to compensate the receiving spouse for economic or noneconomic contributions to the financial resources of the paying spouse, e.g. reimbursement for paying for the other spouse's education.

Rehabilitative Alimony: which exists (regardless of the length of the marriage) to allow a recipient spouse to become economically self sufficient, e/g/ to complete job training. Subject to certain exceptions, rehabilitative alimony is limited to a maximum of five years.

General Term Alimony: which is the periodic payment of support to a former spouse who is/was econoically dependent on the paying spouse. The presumed length of general term alimony is based on the length of the marriage.

The "length of marriage" in all categories of alimony is measured from the date of the marriage until a spouse is served with divorce papers. If the parties lived together prior to marriage in an "economic marital partnership," the marriage is measured from this point to the receipt of divorse papers.

The act sets out a formula for calculating general term alimony.

With certain exceptions, alimony terminates then the paying spouse reaches his/her Social Security retirement age.

General Term Alimony may (but not necessarily will) terminate if the spouse begins to live with another person.

The law is reletively new. However, our Appeals Court has already stated that the main thing to consider remains the dependent spouse's "need for support and maintenance in relationship to the respective financial circumstances of the parties..."

In essence, the more things change, the more they stay the same!