Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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Alimony reform laws challenged in Massachusetts court

Massachusetts residents may be interested in a recent case that challenges the state's alimony reform statute of 2011. There are four alimony types under the new law, including general alimony that is based on the length of time the marriage lasted and rehabilitative alimony for an ex-spouse who needs to establish a career and become self-sufficient. In addition, there is a one-time reimbursement alimony and a transitional alimony.

It is reported that the cases cited when the new law was drafted consisted of middle-income families where, for instance, a husband could not afford to retire due to continuous alimony responsibilities. The challenging case mentioned above involves a family who was used to a high-income lifestyle, and the wife is seeking long-term support offered under the general alimony provision. However, according to the Supreme Judicial Court's conclusion, she is only entitled to rehabilitative alimony for five years while re-establishing a career.

The case was referred back to the Probate and Family Court, because it was determined that the judge had erroneously failed to include the husband's annual bonus that could amount to doubling his regular income. The SJC confirmed the finding that he should pay his former wife 35 percent of his annual income for the five years of rehabilitative alimony. It was also confirmed that the wife need not continue paying a policy that ensured her life and had her husband listed as a beneficiary.

The SJC concluded that the woman, who became a stay-at-home mother six years prior, should be able to re-build a career with a six-figure salary within the five years of rehabilitative alimony. Massachusetts couples that are considering divorce may want to consult with appropriate advisors to assess their situation in matters related to alimony. Addressing such matters before going to divorce court could allow couples to avoid lengthy and costly litigation.

Source: salemnews.com, "North Shore couple's divorce tests state's new alimony law", Julie Manganis, Aug. 2, 2014

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