As of March 1, 2013, many people who have been paying alimony are eligible for a reduction or termination of their alimony obligations. Retirees and those with marriages of five years or less are most likely to receive modifications at this time, while others will become eligible in subsequent years. These reductions are the result of recent major changes to the Massachusetts alimony laws. See G.L. c. 208, §§ 48-55.
The new Massachusetts alimony laws created four formal categories of alimony, and instituted limits on how long a payor spouse is required to pay “general term alimony.”
“General term alimony” is the most general and common category of alimony. The new statutes define it as the periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is economically dependent. Existing alimony awards are deemed “general term alimony.”
Formerly, alimony decrees could last indefinitely. The new statutes limit the duration of general term alimony payments after marriages of twenty years or less, measured from the marriage date to the date of filing for divorce. The duration of alimony payments is now limited based on the length of the marriage, as follows:
- Marriages of five years or less – not longer than one-half the number of months of the marriage
- Marriages of ten years or less, but more than five years—not longer than 60% of the number of months of the marriage.
- Marriages of fifteen years or less, but more than ten years– not longer than 70% of the number of months of the marriage.
- Marriages of twenty years or less, but more than fifteen years– not longer than 80% of the number of months of the marriage.
- Marriages lasting longer than twenty years– The court may order alimony for an indefinite length of time.
General term alimony may also be reduced or terminated upon retirement, or after the recipient’s cohabitation in a common household for three or more months.
The statutes provide a schedule for when modifications to existing judgments may be filed. Payors who were married five years or less may file a complaint for modification of an existing judgment on or after March 1, 2013. Alimony payors who have reached full retirement age or who will reach full retirement age by March 15, 2015, may also now file for modification. Other payors may also be eligible for modification of their alimony judgment now, or will be in the future.
These new Massachusetts alimony laws made drastic changes to the previous alimony scheme. Anyone with an ongoing divorce case or an existing alimony order should seek legal advice to understand how the changes impact their case. Contact the attorneys at Hutchins Law, P.C. for help understanding how the new laws impact you and your loved ones.