Many of you have heard or read about the Massachusetts legislature passing the Alimony Reform Act which was signed by the Governor into law on Monday, September 26, 2011. The law takes effect on March 1, 2012. Alimony is also known as spousal support.
The law is significant, mandating the court set a limit on the length of time alimony must be paid. Previously Massachusetts courts could not limit the time for which alimony must be paid unless the parties agreed. In other words, if the parties could not agree and the case went forward to trial, alimony, if awarded, was without any set duration. Many saw alimony awards as a "lifetime obligation".
The law is also important as it establishes, for the first time in Massachusetts, different types of alimony, distinguishing general term alimony from rehabilitative alimony, reimbursement alimony, and transitional alimony. Also it identifies the time for terminating alimony as "full retirement age" based upon the United States Social Security Act determination as to when a person is the age for entitlement to full Social Security retirement benefits.
Finally, the law now allows for general term alimony to be "suspended, reduced, or terminated upon the cohabitation of the recipient's spouse". The burden is on the former spouse paying alimony to prove that the recipient has maintained a common household with another person for a continuous period of at least three months. Still to be determined is what would happen when a person receiving alimony is served with a Complaint for Modification because they are cohabitating and his or her partner moves out before the case comes to trial. It appears based upon the language in the statue that merely having one's partner move out for a period of time will not limit the court's authority to suspend, reduce or terminate the alimony payment. There are a number of factors outlined in the statute that give guidance into when a person is maintaining a common household.
If you have a question about the Alimony Reform Act or any other family law issue
please contact the Worcester MA Law firm of Lian Zarrow. We will be happy to assist you.