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Massachusetts man flees to Indian reservation to avoid alimony

A 67-year-old Sudbury man has fled Massachusetts and taken up refuge on an Oklahoma Indian reservation in a desperate attempt to avoid paying alimony payments he claims to no longer be in a position to afford. The retired pharmacist had already spent six days of a 120-day contempt of court sentence behind bars for failing to remit $20,000 to his ex-wife's divorce lawyer for attorney's fees when he skipped town. Because he is one-quarter Cherokee on his father's side, he is eligible for sanctuary on the sovereign nation's lands, but faces arrest and extradition back to Massachusetts should he leave the reservation and be detained by police.

The Massachusetts legislature passed a new law in 2012 affecting alimony payments to former spouses as part of a family law reform. This new law ends lifetime alimony and limits payments in cases of marriages of fewer than 20 years duration. The law gives judges discretion to set a longer length for payments in marriages of 20 years or more. The law follows the Social Security guidelines and ends alimony payments when the spouse who is paying reaches his full retirement age, while allowing the judge to extend payments if good cause can be shown. When these exceptions are granted, judges must justify their reasons in writing and submit them to the court. Additionally, if the payee spouse cohabits with another partner for longer than three months, alimony shall cease. The revamped law encourages spouses to move on and make a new life for themselves with limited financial dependency on their former spouse.

In the Sudbury man's case, he and his wife got married in 1979 and had one daughter. He worked as a pharmacist before taking an executive position with a company that sold medical devices. He eventually left that well-paying job to start his own business that foundered and failed in 2011. He now faces enormous debt from the failed venture and has been unable to find gainful employment to pay his ex-wife the court ordered $4,000 a month.

People of all ages can face a reversal of fortunes, yet be stuck with outrageous alimony or child support payments based on out-of-date financial data. If you find yourself in such a quandary, seek the counsel of a reputable family law attorney to protect and preserve your rights and freedoms.

Source: bostonglobe.com, "New Mass. alimony law a 'model' -- but is it working?" Bella English, Nov. 01, 2013

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