By Tracy Fischer

What This Means For You

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has made a controversial ruling recently regarding alimony payments. They decided that alimony payments do not automatically end when the paying spouse reaches the age of retirement.

In the recent case the spouse who had been paying alimony, voluntarily retired at the age of 65 and requested to be relieved of his alimony payments. The ex couple’s divorce agreement did not specify that alimony would end at retirement, rather upon the death of either or remarriage. The Supreme Judicial Court ordered that he continue paying alimony to his ex spouse because she had lost her job, concluding that retirement is only one factor in several when it comes to rulings on alimony modifications.

You may be wondering what this means for you. In terms of mediation, it gives divorcing couples additional knowledge to use in the discussion of appropriate alimony provisions for your particular situation. An understanding of what the courts are doing now will aid in the construction of mediated agreements so both parties can address these particular issues before they arise.

In the recent case that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled on, the result may have seemed unfair to the husband, yet fair and just to the wife. In Massachusetts, trial judges have broad discretion in the application of the amount and duration of alimony. This is why it is important to address possible future scenarios during mediation, so as to not have any unforeseen circumstances come up in the future. While it is difficult to know what life is going to be like in the future, planning ahead, even for hypothetical circumstances, can help to make sure things will always be fair for both parties later on.

These recent developments have been causing quite a stir in the legal community. Alimony provisions and what they mean for divorced spouses in the future are still unclear. There are currently bills before the legislature seeking to clarify and modify the language of the Massachusetts statute. While the legislature and courts determine what these laws will be and how they are interpreted, couples can take a proactive approach in determining what their divorce agreement will include by making the most of the mediation process.

Attorney Tracy Fischer is a  certified Massachusetts mediator with offices in Danvers and Newton, Massachusetts. She provides mediation and family law services to individuals and families throughout the Boston Metro region including Andover, Beverly, Boxford, Burlington, Danvers, Gloucester, Marblehead, Newton, Needham, Peabody, Salem, Tewksbury, Topsfield, Waltham, Watertown,  Wayland, Wellesley, Weston and Wilmington, Massachusetts.