In March 2012, Massachusetts law on alimony was reformed and codified as General Laws Chapter 208, sections 48 – 55. A judicial hearing has been set for Monday, March 7, 2016 at 1 p.m. at the State House seeking further reform of the alimony statute.

The 2012 alimony reform provided for:

  • Durational limits.
  • Termination of alimony upon a payor reaching retirement age.
  • Reduction or termination of an alimony obligation when a recipient cohabitates.

In 2015, the Supreme Judicial Court issued decisions in three cases interpreting the alimony law and held that only the durational limits apply to alimony cases decided (or settled) before March 1, 2012, while the retirement provisions and cohabitation provisions do not.

The three SJC decisions interpreting the alimony reform law meant that those paying alimony pursuant to a Judgment pre-dating March 2012 could not obtain termination of their alimony obligation based solely upon reaching full retirement age and could not point to the recipient spouse’s cohabitation as the sole grounds for termination or reduction of the alimony obligation. The law, except as to durational limits, applies only to people who are divorced after the law went into effect. Alimony payors were unhappy with the SJC decisions. The rulings were a positive development for alimony recipients who had entered into settlement agreements not anticipating that a law would come along to change the settlement terms they had negotiated.

On February 19, 2016, House Bill HD4546 was filed by Massachusetts Representative John Fernandes. The bill seeks to change the alimony law so that payors who were divorced before March 2012 can obtain termination of alimony based upon reaching full retirement age and can have their alimony obligation terminated or reduced based upon the cohabitation of the recipient. Those who were part of the Task Force that worked on the original law believe that the SJC misinterpreted the law in 2015 when holding that the law did not apply retroactively.

Stay tuned for what happens next…