Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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Massachusetts alimony reform: a fairness model for others?

In many ways, Massachusetts leads the way and other states follow. This doesn't mean however that our trailblazing is always appreciated. Same-sex marriage is illegal in some states for example, and legal in others. Our healthcare system was one of the models for the Affordable Care Act which is praised by some while others want to repeal it.

In the area of alimony reform, Massachusetts has led the way for some of our neighboring states. Recent changes to our alimony law went into effect this year which impact the amount and length of time for alimony payments in Massachusetts. Now, in New Jersey a group of 1,200 divorced people and their extended families are lobbying for that state to change its alimony laws to more closely resemble ours.

One of the items that they appear to like is the move away from a lifetime alimony award. New Jersey passed a bill to create a commission the alimony law in that state. The following stories were given as examples. What do you think?

  • A plumber makes between $40,000 and $60,000 per year and was required to pay his ex-wife $1,800 per month. He has been jailed twice for failing to pay. The amount would range from 36 percent to 54 percent of his income, depending on the economy and his fluctuating earnings.
  • An emergency room physician earns about $250,000 per year and was required to pay his ex-wife $5000 per month, which is about 23 percent of his income. He maintained that with child support and insurance payments that he spends $100,000 per year on family expenses. This leaves him with just $150,000.
  • A schoolteacher making $92,000 per year is required to pay her ex-husband alimony of $200 per week which is about 11 percent of her income. As a non-working spouse he also obtained half of the couple's savings and retirement.

In many cases the person paying the alimony feels it is too much and the person receiving it feels it is too little. An experienced legal professional can help work through these issues with you if you are considering divorce.

Source: Philly.com, "New Jersey struggles with the knotty issue of alimony reform," Joelle Farrell, Aug. 19, 2012

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