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The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 - One Step Closer to Alimony Reform in Massachusetts.

When I first wrote about the potential for alimony reform in Massachusetts, it seemed as though we were about to see some changes to our antiquated alimony laws. That was more than a year ago (http://www.bostonherald.com/business/womens/general/view.bg?articleid=1235550) and, subsequently, pending legislation was stalledby intense battles over the nature of what the reform should be between activists, legislators and family law attorneys.With the filing of a new bill,the Alimony Reform Act of...

The Passage of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011

After being unanimously passed by the House on July 20, 2011, the much awaitedAlimony Reform Act of 2011 wasunanimously passed by the Senate today, July 28, 2011. The bill now awaits Governor Patrick's signature before it becomes effective. It is expected that the new law will take effect in March of 2012. If you are currently paying or receiving an alimony award, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney to see how this new law may impact you.

UPDATE: The Alimony Reform Act of 2011

The bill hit Governor Patrick's desk today and now awaits his signature. He has 10 days to act on the bill.

The End of Lifetime Alimony

Today Governor Patrick signed the Alimony Reform Act into law. The new law, which will take effect in March of 2012, places much-needed duration limits upon alimony awards in Massachusetts. If you are currently paying or receiving an alimony award, the new law may have an impact on your case. Contact a local family law attorney to see how the new law may help you.

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'Kairos ~ 274' found at  by  () used under  ()
'Kairos ~ 274' found at  by  () used under  ()

Do your homework, it will help cut down on legal fees in your divorce.

People are always asking me how they can save money on their divorce case. The number one piece of advice that I give them is to do their homework. In a Divorce action, Supplement Probate Court Rule 410 requires that the parties AUTOMATICALLY provide the following documents to the opposing party (within 45 days from the date of service of the summons):

The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 - One Step Closer to Alimony Reform in Massachusetts.

When I first wrote about the potential for alimony reform in Massachusetts, it seemed as though we were about to see some changes to our antiquated alimony laws.  That was more than a year ago (http://www.bostonherald.com/business/womens/general/view.bg?articleid=1235550) and, subsequently, pending legislation was stalled by intense battles over the nature of what the reform should be between activists, legislators and family law attorneys.  With the filing of a new bill, the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, it now appears that we are finally about to see some real changes to our outdated and unfair alimony laws.  This bill has garnered support from two groups who were previously adversaries in this debate - the Women's Bar Association and Massachusetts Alimony Reform - making it far more likely that change will finally come to fruition.  If you are thinking about getting a divorce, or are currently subject to an alimony order, pay close attention to this proposed bill.

The Current State of Alimony in Massachusetts.  Unlike most of our neighboring states who award durational alimony (alimony paid for a set period of time), under current Massachusetts law, support awards are typically given for life, regardless of the age of the recipient or the payor.  This means that the payor must continue paying alimony to his or her former spouse even after retirement and the onset of a fixed income.  This may mean that a payor winds up paying alimony to a former spouse for significantly longer than they were ever even married to them.  For example, you could be married at 22 yrs old, divorced at 27 yrs old, and ordered to pay alimony to your former spouse for the rest of your life.  Additionally, the current law also allows the Court to look at a payor's second spouse's income in determining their ability to pay alimony to the previous spouse.  For many in the family law profession, the Supreme Judicial Court's decision in Pierce v. Pierce highlighted these deficiencies in our current alimony laws.  The text of the decision can be found at http://www.socialaw.com/slip.htm?cid=19511&sid=120

The Alimony Reform Act of 2011.  This proposed legislation would dramatically change alimony laws in Massachusetts while also giving judges greater discretion to evaluate the facts and circumstances of each marriage in setting an alimony award.  The law provides for 4 different types of alimony; general term, rehabilitative, reimbursement and transitional alimony.  General term alimony awards will be closely linked to the duration of the marriage and will provide a sense of equity that is lacking in our current laws.  For instance, if the marriage is less than five years long, the alimony award shall be for no greater than one-half of the months that the marriage lasted.  The percentage of the period of the marriage length that can be awarded as durational alimony increases based upon the length of the marriage.  The proposed law further provides that these orders shall terminate when the payor reaches full retirement age under 42 U.S.C. 416 unless the Courts orders otherwise for good cause shown, thereby ending the reign of lifetime alimony in Massachusetts.  Another significant change is that the Court can no longer look to the payor's second spouse's income in determining the payor's ability to pay alimony to the first spouse.

Impact on Current Alimony Awards.  If you are already the payor or recipient of an alimony award, you may be wondering what impact the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 will have on you if it is passed.  In general, the provisions of the new law are to apply prospectively, to new cases.  However, you may have a basis to seek a modification of your current order, if the duration (not the amount) of your current alimony award is greater than the duration would be under the proposed new law.  In that case, you have the right to go to Court and seek a modification of your order to bring it in line with the duration limits imposed by the Alimony Reform Act of 2011.  The time frames for bringing such a modification action vary depending upon the length of your marriage, therefore, it is important that you consult with an experienced family law attorney if you wish to seek a modification when the law is passed.

The Passage of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011

After being unanimously passed by the House on July 20, 2011, the much awaited Alimony Reform Act of 2011 was unanimously passed by the Senate today, July 28, 2011.  The bill now awaits Governor Patrick's signature before it becomes effective.  It is expected that the new law will take effect in March of 2012.  If you are currently paying or receiving an alimony award, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney to see how this new law may impact you.

UPDATE: The Alimony Reform Act of 2011

The bill hit Governor Patrick's desk today and now awaits his signature.  He has 10 days to act on the bill.

The End of Lifetime Alimony

Today Governor Patrick signed the Alimony Reform Act into law.  The new law, which will take effect in March of 2012, places much-needed duration limits upon alimony awards in Massachusetts.  If you are currently paying or receiving an alimony award, the new law may have an impact on your case.  Contact a local family law attorney to see how the new law may help you.

Do your homework, it will help cut down on legal fees in your divorce.

'Kairos ~ 274' found at  by  () used under  ()

People are always asking me how they can save money on their divorce case. The number one piece of advice that I give them is to do their homework. In a Divorce action, Supplement Probate Court Rule 410 requires that the parties AUTOMATICALLY provide the following documents to the opposing party (within 45 days from the date of service of the summons):

  • Federal and state income tax returns and schedules for the past three (3) years and any non-public, limited partnership and privately held corporate returns for any entity in which either party has an interest together with all supporting documentation for tax returns, including but not limited to W-2's, 1099's 1098's, K-1, Schedule C and Schedule E.

  • Your four (4) most recent pay stubs from each employer for whom you have worked.

  • Documentation regarding the cost and nature of available health insurance coverage.

  • Statements for the past three (3) years for all bank accounts held in the name of either party individually or jointly, or in the name of another person for the benefit of either party, or held by either party for the benefit of the parties' minor child(ren).

  • Statements for the past three (3) years for any securities, stocks, bonds, notes or obligations, certificates of deposit owned or held by either party or held by either party for the benefit of the parties' minor child(ren), 401K statements, IRA statements, and pension plan statements for all accounts listed on the 401 financial statement.

  • Copies of any loan or mortgage applications made, prepared or submitted: by either party within the last three (3) years prior to the filing of the complaint.

  • Copies of any financial statement and/or statement of assets and liabilities prepared by either party within the last three (3) years prior to the filing of the complaint.

Gather these documents for your attorney before your first meeting if you can.  Don't make your attorney have to spend his or her time (and your money!) following-up with you to get these documents.  Every call, email and letter sent asking for this information will cost you in fees.  Be proactive about gathering and providing this information.   Don't drop off a big, unorganized box of financial records that  have been sitting in your basement gathering dust.  Sort through your records and only provide what was requested of you.  This way you aren't paying to have your attorney sort through hundreds of pages of documents to find the handful of pages that are needed at a rate of $200+ an hour.

You also need to make sure that you fill out your financial statement accurately.  The form for the financial statement can be found online at :  http://www.mass.gov/courts/courtsandjudges/courts/probateandfamilycourt/forms.html#financial.  Keep in mind that the form requests WEEKLY figures for your income and expenses.  If you pay for an expense on a monthly basis, you need to divide the monthly amount that you pay by 4.2.  Include all sources of income, not just your primary job.  If you receive SSDI or veteran's benefits, or have a part-time job, you need to include these as sources of income.

Doing your homework - accurately completing the financial statement and gathering the above listed financial documents - will provide your attorney with the information that he or she needs to get started working for you and will save you money.

Image credit: Kairos ~ 274 by Angélique ~, on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.