Determining appropriate alimony is often part of negotiating a divorce settlement. However, over time, circumstances can change that may allow a former spouse to seek an adjustment to the original alimony agreement. The court will consider a change in alimony under certain circumstances, such as cohabitation, retirement, an increase in income, the length of the marriage, or an emergency such as an illness, disability or job loss. Specific reasons for alimony changes are governed by the Alimony Reform Act, further described below.
Changing the amount or duration of alimony is through a process called a “modification”, which triggers the beginning of a post-divorce legal process on its own timeline. The modification is typically before the same judge as the divorce.
If you or your spouse believe a change in alimony is appropriate, please call or email us for a consultation.
About The Alimony Reform Act
The Massachusetts legislature has, at last, caught up to most of the country by enacting the Alimony Reform Act, effective March 3, 2012. The impact of the Act was enormous, but left many questions about its application to divorces concluded prior to March 3, 2012, and how to interpret certain sections. Cases interpreting this Act have narrowed its uncertainty.
The three biggest changes imposed by the Act were:
- A person who cohabitates for more than three (3) months while receiving alimony is at risk of alimony termination, reduction or suspension.
- A person who pays alimony can commence a proceeding to terminate the alimony obligation as of their full retirement age, as defined by the Social Security Administration
- Alimony is paid for a fixed amount of time. The duration (i.e, how long someone pays/receives alimony) is determined by the length of the marriage, in months. This calculation begins on the date of marriage and ends on the date that the divorce Complaint is served on the other spouse. We first identify this number of months, then multiple by the appropriate percentage (e.g., an alimony obligation of a marriage between 15 and 20 years is 80% of the length of the marriage). This calculation results in a date at which alimony terminates.
We urge former husbands and wives to consult with us about how the Act impacts their prior divorce; often it results in a change from the original Agreement. In pending cases the terms of the Act are a driving consideration. In either case the Act is an essential part of the alimony consideration. (Note: the Act does not impact child support).
The attorneys at Grossman & Associates, Ltd. are experienced in this Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act. Contact us today to learn more.