By Matt Allen
It’s official. Massachusetts’ long-awaited alimony reform is now reality following Gov. Deval Patrick’s signature that mostly eradicates lifetime alimony awards.
The new law allows judges to put an end date to alimony, establishes a formula, and sets guidelines to help determine the amount of alimony.
Judges were hamstrung by the state’s previous archaic laws that did not allow them to cap the duration of alimony even when they felt alimony should end, among other shortcomings.
Those men paying lifetime alimony can file for modifications beginning in 2013, while the changes take effect for new cases in March.
Alimony reform has become a stand for men’s rights because even though alimony laws are written to be “gender neutral,” men comprise 97% of alimony payers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
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Other states have joined Massachusetts in the fight against unfair alimony awards. Florida has made some progress with its recent updates to the state’s alimony laws. In order to award lifetime alimony, Florida courts must now have “clear and convincing” evidence that no other type of alimony is “fair and reasonable,” and the award cannot leave the paying party with significantly less income than the recipient.
A recent ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court overturning a financially stable, employable wife’s award of lifetime alimony illustrated a more modern approach to determining alimony that takes into account a woman’s occupation and earning capacity.
Designed to make alimony in Massachusetts fair and consistent, the alimony reform bill was unanimously approved in both the Massachusetts House and Senate, “which tells you how bad these laws were and how much momentum there was to change them,” according to Elizabeth Benedict, a driving force behind the movement.
Watch her DadsDivorce.com interview “Overhaul Alimony.”