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State’s top court to rule on questions raised by alimony law

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will rule on whether alimony reform applies retroactively.

Unclear if alimony reform applies to divorces completed prior to law's passing

Massachusetts' alimony reform, which was passed in 2012, is often seen as a model for other states looking to revamp their alimony laws. The reform was meant to ensure that alimony payments were consistent and fair in an age when often both spouses are often employed. However, since its passing, there have been a number of problems with how the new law is interpreted by judges. According to the Boston Globe, some of those problems will soon be addressed by the Supreme Judicial Court.

Alimony and retirement

One of the biggest changes brought by alimony reform concerned retirement. Under the new law, alimony typically ends when the spouse paying alimony reaches retirement age. The law also says that alimony ends or is reduced when the receiver of the alimony lives for three or more months with a new partner.

However, the law is unclear whether these rules apply to all divorce cases or only to those that were completed after the law was passed in March 2012. The Supreme Judicial Court's decision to take up the matter could provide important clarification for lower courts and could dramatically affect the divorce cases of many Massachusetts residents.

Law interpreted differently

A previous article in the Boston Globe highlighted some of the growing pains the alimony reform was going through. As that article pointed out, judges have differed in how they interpret and enforce the law, with some judges saying the law is unclear and others saying it doesn't apply to all cases.

Those who helped craft the law, for example, say that the rule concerning alimony being reduced or ending when the payee cohabits with another partner for three or more months was meant to apply to all divorce cases. However, some judges have interpreted that rule as only applying to divorce cases that were completed after the law went into effect.

Legal advice

As judges, lawyers, and families anxiously await the Supreme Judicial Court's ruling, anybody who currently has an alimony or other family law issue should contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible.

Keeping up with changes to the law can be difficult, which is why it is so important for people to seek the advice of an experienced attorney. Such an attorney can inform clients about how the law and recent court decisions affect them and what moves they may want to consider taking to resolve any current family law issues they may have.

Keywords: alimony, Massachusetts

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