By Tracy Fischer

The Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act was signed into law in 2011 and became effective a little over a year ago. This law brought about sweeping new changes in the way alimony is awarded in the state, and many orders issued prior to its enactment could be modified as a result.

One of the biggest changes brought about by this act was the length of time a spouse may receive alimony. In the past, alimony was sometimes awarded for an indefinite period even when marriages lasted less than 20 years. The current law requires couples to have been legally married for at least 20 years before alimony will be awarded indefinitely. Cohabitation and the forming of an economic partnership prior to marriage can add on to the length of the marriage. Those who were married less than that amount of time may receive spousal support for a period of time ranging from 50% to 80% of the number of months married depending on the length of the union.

Alimony may be suspended under certain conditions including if the recipient later remarries. If he or she cohabitates with another for a period of time that exceeds three months, a judge may also order alimony be suspended. In most instances, payments will automatically cease when the spouse who is ordered to pay reaches full retirement age.

The amount of alimony awarded under the new guidelines should not exceed 30% and 35% of the difference between the gross incomes of each party. A modification can be requested in the event there is a material change in circumstances such as the loss of a job or disability that limits one’s ability to work.

Modifying alimony can be a somewhat complicated process, as there are a number of factors that come into play when doing so. The time frame for filing can also vary based upon the number of years the couple was married. Contact us to find out if and when you might be able to benefit from these recent changes in state law.