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Do you have a plan after your alimony ends?

Despite the fact that the state's Alimony Reform Act has been in effect for more than three years, much confusion remains about the awarding of alimony in Massachusetts — both past and present.

There is no question that the intent of the reform was to even the scales of justice regarding alimony, but did it create a whole other level of injustice in the process? Some believe it did.

There are now four categories of alimony:

Rehabilitative alimony - Support intended to help one spouse become self-sufficient within a five-year period.

Reimbursement alimony - This support is awarded in cases of marriages of short duration as compensation for the recipient's prior contributions to their spouse's financial resources, e.g., financing the spouse's education.

Transitional alimony - Also awarded in marriages lasting only a few years that is intended to assist the recipient in adjusting to lifestyle changes or relocation.

General term alimony - Consists of regular support payments based on the total months that a couple was married, and generally about 30-35 percent of the difference between the spouses' incomes.

Whereas alimony was once ordered to be paid for life, this reform allows its termination when the payor reaches the age of full retirement. Additionally, if the recipient spouse cohabits with an intimate partner for more than three consecutive months, their alimony can be suspended, reduced or even terminated entirely.

What is particularly worrisome about the Act is that persons divorced decades ago can pursue these new benefits the Act provides by petitioning the Court for modifications of their former divorce judgments, as long as they meet the "waiting periods" set forth in the Act.

These changes mean that it is more vital now than ever to seek the most equitable disposition of assets, especially those easily liquidated, during the divorce. That way, the spouse whose alimony will eventually end has the opportunity to make sound investments before the payments stop. Ask your family law attorney about the best plan of action for your circumstances.

Source: Better After 50, "Divorce Law Changes in MA: Women Beware," Nancy Freed, accessed Oct. 22, 2015

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