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MA Alimony Now Capped Based on Length of Marriage

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on September 28, 2011 6:44 AM

A new Massachusetts alimony law will go into effect early next year, changing the way in which judges order payments.

Judges will now apply a strict formula, which bases the number of payment years on the length of the marriage. Alimony will also end when the payer retires, or when the recipient moves in with a new partner.

Only marriages of considerable length can result in lifetime alimony.

Though strict, the new law seems to represent a trend in divorce settlement.

A number of states have begun to question the sensibility of lifetime alimony. Florida now requires clear and convincing evidence of need, reports the Wall Street Journal. And the Tennessee Supreme Court denied lifetime payments to a healthy woman with a stable job.

A reevaluation of alimony law is likely the result of a change in social structure. It is normal for women to work out of the home, leaving them in less financial need. Short marriages without children are also a more common occurrence.

Critics of the Mass. alimony law have concerns about the law's impact on stay-at-home mothers and fathers, according to the New York Times. They also believe the law encourages women to remain in abusive relationships for longer periods of time.

However, the law still grants judges discretion when a deviation from the limits is "in the interests of justice." This exception will arguably apply in cases of abuse and non-working parents.

The Mass. alimony law is certainly a big change, and there are still a number of questions, including: Will standardization make divorce less costly?

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