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Alimony Reform in Print


Massachusetts Sets Limits on Alimony

By JENNIFER LEVITZ, The Wall Street Journal

BOSTON—Alimony isn't forever in Massachusetts anymore.

The state abolished most lifetime spousal support Monday, joining several states where alimony payments have come under scrutiny as payers argue they are struggling in the rocky economy.

Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick signed a measure that generally ends alimony when the payer reaches retirement age or when the recipient begins living with a romantic partner.

The law also establishes a formula for alimony, based on the length of the marriage. For example, alimony would generally last no more than 10½ years following a 15-year marriage.

Judges can still award indefinite alimony for long-term marriages. And in the case of short marriages, a judge can order "reimbursement alimony" if one spouse, for instance, put the other through school.

The law ends the common practice of Massachusetts judges awarding alimony as a permanent entitlement, an increasingly rare practice across the U.S. It also, for the first time, sets guidelines on how the amount of alimony payments should be determined. The changes take effect in March 2012, and people who are paying lifetime alimony can file for modifications starting in 2013. More..

Alimony in Massachusetts Gets Overhaul, With Limits

By JESS BIDGOOD
Published: September 26, 2011

BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick on Monday signed into law new limits on alimony in Massachusetts, sharply curbing lifetime alimony payments in divorce cases and making a series of other changes to a system that critics considered outdated.

The previous system allowed judges to award lifelong alimony after both short and long marriages, in contrast to the practices of most states. It often required payments to continue even after the spouse paying the alimony retired or the spouse receiving it moved in with a new partner.

The new law, which had widespread support in the legislature, allows most of those paying alimony to stop once they retire. It also sets limits, based on the length of a marriage, on the number of years former spouses can receive payments. More...

UPI.COM

Reforms make Mass. alimony 'more fair'

Published: Sept. 26, 2011 at 6:47 PM

BOSTON, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Massachusetts' revamped alimony system is now fair and equitable, Gov. Deval Patrick said Monday as he signed an overhaul ending lifetime alimony payments.

The reforms "modernize and make more fair the alimony system, and it has come up in a very grassroots way, and I like that process," Patrick said at the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill in Boston.

The overhaul, unanimously passed by the state House and the Senate, is intended to make alimony more fair and reasonable for both parties in a divorce, officials said. More...

Legislation overhauls Bay State alimony law

Patrick expected to sign measure today

By Martine Powers , Globe Staff / September 26, 2011

Divorce attorneys and family advocates are calling the state’s new alimony bill the most dramatic change to family law in decades.

The bill, which was passed unanimously in the House and the Senate, is expected to be signed by Governor Deval Patrick today.

Family law experts and advocates are hoping the new law will make alimony more equitable for both parties in a divorce.

“Our alimony law was so antiquated that there were issues on both sides, for payors and payees,’’ said Denise Squillante, former president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, who represented the organization on the legislative task force. “This a very fair bill that addresses all those issues.’’

More...

Alimony reform heads to governor's desk
Boston Business Journal by Eric Convey

Date: Monday, September 19, 2011

A bill that would overhaul alimony in Massachusetts cleared the state Senate Monday morning and is headed to Gov. Deval Patrick's desk. He will have 10 days to act on it.

The measure followed years of efforts by activists who alleged that the state's system of life-long alimony was unfair to payers. It stipulates that alimony should be paid for "a reasonable length of time." Unlike most states, Massachusetts did not cap alimony after a certain number of years. Even short marriages could result in decades of payments. More...

Alimony in the Air: Arnold, Maria, Massachusetts and Florida

Elizabeth Benedict, Posted: 8/1/11

In every corner of the country -- California, Massachusetts, Florida -- spousal support is in the news. These last two weeks have been a crash course in what we talk about when we talk about alimony....

...By contrast, under the long-standing Massachusetts law there is no way for a judge to set a time limit on alimony. As a result, the state has become littered with men (97 percent of payers are men) paying lifetime alimony to women who are in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, and who may be highly educated, highly skilled, who may have worked throughout their marriages for high wages, and may be working still. There are cases of women who, after dividing millions in marital assets, are making $100K-plus in their jobs and receiving lifetime alimony from an ex who makes $150K plus. The payments don't end at retirement, only at the recipient's remarriage or death. And few remarry because the money supply will end. And there are cases of men in their 70s and 80s -- some in nursing homes with dementia -- paying alimony from Social Security checks while their "new wives" of many decades must chose between paying the alimony and buying prescription drugs.

Increasingly in Massachusetts, higher-earning ex-wives are paying lifetime alimony to ex-husbands. In one case, a woman taking care of a child with cerebral palsy was jailed because her real estate business had tanked and she could not make payments of $5000 plus a month.

If these laws sound medieval to you, you've got company. On July 28, the Massachusetts Senate followed the House the previous week and passed a sweeping overhaul of its alimony laws by unanimous votes in both houses. ...MORE

Spitz: Eyes turn to Senate for alimony
By Julia Spitz/Daily News staff
Milford Daily News
Posted Jul 24, 2011 @ 12:00 AM

Phyllis Beal lives in South Carolina, but her ties to Massachusetts have been unbreakable.
Her 92-year-old husband has to send a hefty check to his ex-wife in Florida each month because of Massachusetts' lifetime alimony law.

"Now that I'm retired, it's an issue. Our income has dwindled," said Beal, who met Wellesley native Bob Beal when she was a Holliston resident and he was recently divorced.

"He was 60 when we married in 1978. (His former wife) was working. But from what I understand, they couldn't look at that at all" when the court calculated the alimony Beal's husband would owe for the rest of his life.

"I just think Massachusetts, being such a liberal state, the alimony laws are so antiquated it just blows my mind," Beal said. "Some of the testimony (presented to legislators in May) makes my husband's situation sound miniscule."

The unanimous vote in the Massachusetts House of Representatives gives Beal hope her husband's payments could end when he's 94. More...

MBA applauds House passage of landmark alimony legislation

BBA Applauds House of Representatives for Passing Landmark Alimony Reform

House approves bill revising Mass. alimony system

By Johanna Kaiser
Associated Press / July 20, 2011

BOSTON—A bill aimed at reforming the state's alimony system was unanimously approved Wednesday by the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

The bill would establish guidelines for alimony payments, and limit the duration of payments, ending so-called "lifetime alimony" payments ordered by some judges in divorce cases.

"The legislation establishes the correct public policy of encouraging parties to terminate their relationships upon divorce and live independently as soon as is practical," Rep. John Fernandes, a Milford Democrat and the House chairman of the Alimony Reform Task Force, said during the debate.

One of the biggest proposed changes in the bill would set limits on how long a spouse can receive alimony payments, based on how long the couple was married. More...

State House News Service

Alimony reform advances in House
Proposals have failed in the past

Updated: Thursday, 07 Jul 2011, 3:30 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 07 Jul 2011, 3:30 PM EDT

BOSTON (State House News Service) - The House signaled Thursday that it appears ready to tackle an issue that policy makers have long eyed as in need of reform: the alimony system.

During a lightly attended session, the House gave initial approval to a sweeping reform bill and Rep. Paul Donato, (D-Medford), a member of Speaker Robert DeLeo’s leadership team who presided over Thursday’s session, said the House would likely hold a formal session next week to debate the changes.

Under the proposal, state law would lay out for the first time specific guidelines on the levels and duration of payments to former spouses.

Critics of the current system say it is inconsistent and arbitrary and leaves many without redress even if their financial situation deteriorates. The changes would also curb “lifetime” alimony, something reform advocates say Massachusetts judges award too often.

The bill (S 665) has 133 co-sponsors from both parties and support from a large majority in each branch. More...

Boston Herald Op-Ed

Outdated alimony laws need overhaul
By Jennifer C. Braceras
Monday, June 20, 2011

..."My friend Theresa (not her real name) earned more than her husband during the last several years of their marriage. Theresa has sole custody of, and sole financial responsibility for their three children. Yet Theresa is required to pay her ex-husband — an able-bodied male with no child-care responsibilities — several hundred dollars a week! And she is required to do so indefinitely, despite the fact that the loss of this income ultimately hurts the children for whom she is responsible.

"Responding to stories like these, lawmakers on Beacon Hill have filed legislation to modernize Massachusetts alimony law.

"Last week, the Massachusetts House Judiciary Committee gave unanimous support to the alimony reform bill. Let’s hope that the full House and the state Senate act quickly to pass this important legislation. More...

Jennifer C. Braceras is an attorney and political commentator.

WORCESTER BUSINESS JOURNAL

TILL COURTS DO US PART

Local Printer Pushes For Alimony Fix
Reform measure gains traction with leaders on Beacon Hill

By Matt Pilon
Worcester Business Journal Staff Writer 06/20/11

Marlborough business owner Stephen Hitner’s first marriage ended in divorce 12 years ago. Since that time, his court-ordered alimony payments have been so restrictive that he’s been forced to borrow from his second wife’s credit line to keep up.

In fact, the combined effects of alimony and the economic downturn have dealt a nearly fatal blow to his business, MetroWest Printing.

But Hitner, 63, isn’t taking the pain lying down. In fact, he’s been a prime mover over the last six years to reform the state’s alimony laws. More...

Boston Herald

Alimony Reform Bill Update

By Hillary Chabot
Monday, June 13, 2011

"Legislators, who are still hashing out priorities in the $30.5 billion state budget, are expected to vote on an alimony reform bill this week. The bill would make divorces cheaper and allow judges to cap alimony payments. It also would allow divorced spouses to revisit alimony payments if an unemployed spouse is living with a new partner."

EDITORIAL

Massachusetts' pending alimony revolution

Boston Business Journal - by George Donnelly Date: Friday, June 3, 2011, 1:19pm EDT

It's the biggest news to hit Massachusetts' probate courts in decades: Lifetime alimony in Massachusetts may be a thing of the past.
Lawmakers are in the process of reforming the commonwealth's paternalistic and punitive alimony laws after holding a legislative hearing last month at the Joint Committee of the Judiciary. Everyone seems to be on the same page.

Massachusetts law currently does not allow judges to cap the duration of alimony, leading to lifetime awards that sometimes don't reflect the economic realities of both the payer and receiver of the alimony. For some payers, a lifetime is a very, very long time, punctuated by job loss, sickness, and the profound desire to retire, often while watching the former spouse not work.

The alimony reform bill does away with these life sentences, instead setting specific guidelines for the duration of alimony. For example, if a couple was married for between 10 and 15 years, the maximum alimony term is 70 percent of the time the couple was married. Judges have the discretion to allow lengthy alimony for marriages over 20 years, but the alimony would end at retirement age, as defined by the Social Security Act.

For many embroiled in the world of family law, either as lawyers or participants, this creates a whole new (reasonable) world. MORE...

Lawmakers look to cap alimony, make divorce cheaper in Mass.

Boston Business Journal - by Lisa van der Pool Date: Thursday, June 2, 2011, 2:51pm EDT

Local divorce lawyers say the proposed Alimony Reform Act of 2011 — which would dramatically alter how alimony payments are determined in Massachusetts — would make divorces cheaper and make their job of advising clients during a divorce much simpler if passed into law. In certain circumstances, it would also open the door for divorced parties to revisit their established alimony agreements.

...“The word I’ve heard is there is a lot of momentum behind this bill, and that legislators are motivated to do something about this issue,” said Kelly Leighton, a divorce attorney at the firm Barnes and Leighton and co-chair of the Boston Bar Association’s family law section.

The Joint Committee on the Judiciary held public hearings on the Alimony Reform law on May 18.

The proposed bill is being hailed by members of the bar as providing long-awaited guidelines for alimony awards in Massachusetts, which currently does not allow judges to cap duration — resulting in worst-case scenarios in working spouses making lifetime payments to non-working spouses who are supported by unmarried, live-in partners.

Read more: Lawmakers look to cap alimony, make divorce cheaper in Mass. | Boston Business Journal

Milford State Rep. hopes to get alimony changes passed

By Ashley Studley, Daily News staff
Milford Daily News
Last update May 25, 2011 @ 12:49 AM

State Rep. John Fernandes said he hopes a bill to reform alimony will hit the Senate or House before summer.

After a successful hearing before the Judiciary Committee last week, the bill seems to be gathering support, the Milford Democrat said.

"We've got tremendous momentum coming out of that hearing for change in the way alimony is handled in Massachusetts. I'm hopeful we'll see it released on the floor in the not-too-distant future," Fernandes said.

Sponsored by Fernandes and state Sen. Gale Candaras, D-Wilbraham, co-chairmen of the Alimony Task Force, the bill seeks to change what officials have deemed an archaic payout system. More...

LAWMAKERS SEE SUPPORT BROADENING FOR MAJOR ALIMONY SYSTEM CHANGES

By Colleen Quinn
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MAY 17, 2011……Alimony payment laws could be dramatically revamped under a proposed plan that would lay out in state law for the first time specific guidelines on the levels and duration of payments to former spouses.

Critics of the current system say it is inconsistent and arbitrary and leaves many without redress even if their financial situation deteriorates. The changes would also curb "lifetime" alimony, something reform advocates say Massachusetts judges award too often.

Alimony reform has come up in the past, but the recession pushed it to the top of the priority list, lawmakers involved in drafting the bill said. The Joint Committee on the Judiciary will hear testimony on the proposed changes Wednesday afternoon. More...

Spitz: Alimony law needs a change

By Julia Spitz/Daily News staff
The MetroWest Daily News

Posted May 17, 2011

We have laws to encourage people to do the right thing.

We have punishments for those who don't comply.

Some laws are basic. Some are more complicated than a Rubik's Cube.

The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 under consideration on Beacon Hill this week is both.

It's also fair.

...This is hardly the first attempt to overhaul our state's alimony law, but it's now time for the Legislature to act. More...

The Springfield Republican

State Sen. Gale Candaras of Wilbraham to announce proposal to change Massachusetts alimony law

Published: Tuesday, May 17, 2011, 9:43 PM

By Jeanette DeForge, The Republican

BOSTON – Legislators Wednesday will unveil legislation before the joint committee on the judiciary that would limit alimony.

The bill was written by a task force including members of many legal organizations such as the Massachusetts Bar Association, advocates and legislators. The chief justice of the Probate Court served as a consultant to ensure changes would not conflict with existing child custody or divorce laws, said Sen. Gale D. Candaras, D-Wilbraham.

Candaras served as chairwoman of the task force with state Rep. John V. Fernandes, D-Milford. The group worked for 14 months to hammer out the changes in the law, which has not been amended since the early 1980s.

More...

Boston Herald

Lawmakers see support broadening for major alimony system changes

By Colleen Quinn / State House News Service
Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Alimony payment laws could be dramatically revamped under a proposed plan that would lay out in state law for the first time specific guidelines on the levels and duration of payments to former spouses.

Critics of the current system say it is inconsistent and arbitrary and leaves many without redress even if their financial situation deteriorates. The changes would also curb “lifetime” alimony, something reform advocates say Massachusetts judges award too often. More...

Boston Herald

Mass. considers ending ‘lifetime alimony’

By Associated Press
Sunday, May 15, 2011

"BOSTON - Steve Niro got married three decades ago, but divorced less than five years later. He’s been paying alimony ever since - and there’s no end in sight.

After Niro’s youngest child graduated from college a few years ago, his child support ended and his remaining alimony payment was $65 a week. But his wife took him to court for a modification, and a judge agreed to increase the alimony to $700 a week, or $36,000 a year." More

Medford legislators speak at Women's Bar breakfast

Medford Transcript
Posted Mar 08, 2011 @ 02:00 PM

The Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts (WBA) shared its 2011 Legislative Agenda with legislators at the Massachusetts State House, including Medford Rep. Carl Sciortino and Sen. Pat Jehlen, at the organization’s Legislative Breakfast.

Alimony Reform: Senator Cynthia Stone Creem and WBA member Rachel Biscardi spoke about Senator Gale Candaras’ bill, S 665, A Bill to Reform and Improve Alimony, which would benefit all parties to alimony arrangements by creating different categories of alimony with set limitations.

The bill also provides important safeguards for families that do not fit squarely within the guidelines by maintaining judicial discretion where appropriate.

This compromise bill was the result of a Task Force appointed in October 2009 by the Joint Committee on Judiciary Chairs, Sen. Cynthia Creem and Rep. Eugene O’ Flaherty.
The Task Force, charged with examining the Massachusetts alimony law, included Rachel Biscardi as a representative of the Women’s Bar Association, and other representatives of the judiciary, Massachusetts Bar Association, Boston Bar Association, the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and Massachusetts Alimony Reform.

Read more



Lifetime Alimony in Massachusetts: You're Kidding, Right? Wrong.

By Elizabeth Benedict, ElizabethBenedict.com
Posted: February 8, 2011 11:55 AM

You may have heard Massachusetts is a liberal state. You may have heard it was the first state to legalize gay marriage (true!). You may have heard about those crazy Kennedys--Senator Ted was a liberal before Scott Brown went to his first tea party.

But on the subject of alimony, forget everything you've heard about Massachusetts. Its alimony laws are medieval. Draconian. Pure insanity. Whatever you do, don't get divorced in Massachusetts--and don't be living there if your spouse decides to divorce you, especially if you're the higher earner. (Yes, some women pay alimony, and some get thrown in jail if they can't make the payments, even if they have custody of the kids.) More...

Milford representative leads alimony bill effort

By Ashley Studley/Daily News staff
Milford Daily News
Posted Feb 07, 2011 @ 01:31 PM

A local official hopes to change a spousal support system he says is archaic and out of touch.

Rep. John Fernandes, D-Milford, and Sen. Gale Candaras, D-Wilbraham, co-sponsored a bill last week that proposes eliminating lifetime alimony payments. "The overriding concern is that alimony today is reflective of marriage and divorce from a different era," Fernandes said.

As co-chairmen of the Alimony Task Force, Fernandes and Candaras worked with lawyers, a chief judge and several public policy representatives to draft a bill Candaras says incorporates major change. More...

Boston Herald

Reform could end alimony for life

Jessica FargenBy Jessica Fargen
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Read synopsis in News

The following are excerpts from the full article.

“It is radical, comprehensive, real sweeping reform,” said Denise Squillante, a family law attorney in Fall River and president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, which supports the legislation filed this month.

The Women’s Bar Association, which had opposed previous “draconian” reform efforts, is on board with the new bill because of protections for women, said Rachel Biscardi, a family law attorney and task force member.

The bill sets clear guidelines for judges in determining how long an ex pays another, yet retains judicial discretion, said Paula Carey, chief justice of the state’s probate and family court.

Sen. Cynthia Creem, co-chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, which will likely have a hearing on the bill, said she agrees with it.

“This is as good a shot as there is at seeing alimony reform happen,” said bill co-sponsor Rep. John Fernandes (D-Milford). “The realization is that times have changed and we have a system of alimony rooted in a different era and a different view of the relationship between spouses, and the purpose of alimony has changed.”

Senate President Therese Murray also seems open to alimony reform.
“Anything that could potentially make the system more consistent and fair should get serious consideration,” she said in a statement to the Herald.


Antiquated law pure insanity

Margery EaganBy Margery Eagan
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Read synopsis in News

The following are excerpts from the full article.

“I think people are so unaware of the laws around this, and when they find out they’re shocked, absolutely shocked,” he [Steve Hitner, President of Mass Alimony Reform] said. “It’s crazy. You can’t make this stuff up.”

Hitner’s right. The more you learn about Massachusetts’ alimony laws, the more insane they sound, not to mention unfair, abusive and totally outdated.

They need to change, now. That’s something Hitner is working toward as a member of a legislative task force to reform alimony laws that are a gross embarrassment to us all.

From a feminist perspective, there’s also something insulting about alimony laws used most often to support ex-wives. There are two underlying assumptions here. A woman can’t earn like a man. And a mother’s raising children somehow ruins her ability to earn decent pay outside the home.

Maybe both were true in the 1950s, when sexism prevented women from working as anything other than teachers, nurses or secretaries. But it’s not true in 2011, when most mothers work; and when even mothers who do stay at home with small children rarely do so indefinitely.

Such is the success of the much-derided women’s movement.

But ladies, we can’t have it both ways. If we seek equality going into a marriage, we must expect no less getting out of one.

MBA will support alimony reform bill

Boston Business Journal - by Lisa van der Pool
Date: Monday, January 24, 2011, 10:56am EST

The Massachusetts Bar Association has voted to support The Alimony Reform Act of 2011, the group said on Monday.

The MBA plans to advocate for the passage of the act, which will put time limits on alimony orders, among other provisions.

The alimony laws in Massachusetts have been hotly debated for years.

Massachusetts’ current alimony law does not empower judges to cap the duration of an alimony award, enabling post-divorce settlements that can last a lifetime. The current law has drawn anger from alimony payers who say they’ve been forced for years to pay large percentages of their incomes. More...

MBA endorses ‘landmark’ alimony reform legislation

Published: 11:47 am Mon, January 24, 2011
By Christina Pazzanese

The Massachusetts Bar Association has announced it will support legislation filed on Beacon Hill earlier this month that will make a number of critical changes to existing alimony laws. Among the key revisions proposed under the Alimony Reform Act of 2011: • Creating new, separate alimony categories with specific definitions and durational time limits; • The opportunity to terminate alimony ...

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Divorce reform becomes hot issue in Creem/Rudnick Senate contest

September 1, 2010

In an oped appearing in this week’s TAB, Creem defends her role in alimony reform, saying the current system doesn’t work and deflecting critics who feel she has a conflict of interest.

“I believe we need to reform alimony,” Creem said in an interview. “It doesn’t affect my practice at all — I have no financial benefit. Period.” ...

Steve Hitner, co-founder of Mass Alimony Reform, believes Creem “will agree” with changes made to current alimony laws and is confident that revisions his group has been pushing for will be made by next year.

“She said she will back whatever the task force will come up with,” said Hitner, who sits on the Judiciary Committee’s alimony task force.

Since Creem appointed it, Hitner said the task force has made significant progress this year, and he is sure the 12-year incumbent will accept the group’s recommended changes to the antiquated laws.

LOWELL SUN EDITORIAL
Alimony shouldn't be a life sentence

August 6, 2010

"The casino bill may be receiving most of the attention, but it isn't the only legislation that was left hanging when the legislative session ended last Saturday. A much-needed measure that would have updated Massachusetts' archaic alimony laws was also put on Beacon Hill's back burner.

For years, residents have clamored for alimony reform, but Massachusetts lawmakers have repeatedly succeeded in ducking the issue. Unfortunately, they were successful again this year. ...

...The state's antiquated alimony laws lock many former spouses into a lifetime of virtual indentured servitude. And they discourage many people from marrying again because the second spouse's income can be used to argue for increased alimony payments. ...

...A bill proposed by state Rep. Steven Walsh, D-Lynn, would have modernized the state's outmoded alimony laws, but was sent to an Alimony Task Force -- along with two similar pieces of legislation. That committee failed to issue a report or recommend specific legislation by the close of the legislative session.

Massachusetts must enact legislation that represents the reality of today's world and that includes reforming its antiquated alimony laws." ...More


GLOBE EDITORIAL
Alimony system needs reform, but Legislature drags its feet

July 25, 2010

"THE ANTIQUATED alimony system in Massachusetts reflects a bygone time when people tended to marry young, women stayed home with few prospects for work, and life expectancies were shorter. Family dynamics have since changed, but alimony has not. For many, it has become a lifetime entitlement, and tales of abuse are rampant, as the Globe reported last Sunday. Second spouses’ income is effectively garnished. People receive alimony checks for far longer than their marriages lasted, and have an incentive not to remarry or work. Cases drag on for years, racking up hefty legal fees."

"The need for reform is evident, but advocates complain that the Legislature, its ranks loaded with lawyers, has been sluggish in making changes. Whatever the reason for delay, lawmakers must bring the system in line with the modern world..."

"...Endless litigation over alimony may be lucrative for divorce lawyers, but it’s a source of anxiety for many divorced spouses — especially those making payments whose terms no longer make any sense. If relationships can be severed and changed, contractual payments ought to be, too." More...

Alimony Reform Bill (H1785) Delayed Until the Next Legislative Session

July 24, 2010: Massachusett Election 2010

Alimony Task Force chairs promise to work on a bill through the Summer and Fall to have a bill ready early in the next session. (Details on next year’s bill)

With the legislative session running out of time, and the House under Speaker’ DeLeo’s legislative lockdown – no bills are moving. In a letter to his legislative colleagues, Representative John Fernandes reveals that the task force, set up over 10 months ago to make a recommendation on meaningful alimony reform, has failed come up with a recommendation in time to act this year: More...


Reform the reformer

By Adrian Walker, Globe Columnist
July 19, 2010

"With Cynthia Stone Creem in charge of fixing alimony in Massachusetts, is it any surprise that it remains a mess?

"Creem, a six-term senator from Newton, works in the State House when she isn’t pursuing her real career, which happens to be practicing divorce law. And she has never really thought there is all that much wrong with the state’s wildly arbitrary divorce laws. Most of the bar thinks things are fine just the way they are. A fine piece by Bella English in the Globe yesterday refuted the idea that the system works. It highlighted the growing movement — which lawmakers would like to ignore — to reform the system, showing it through the eyes of several men and women who believe they have been forced to pay unfairly, and make strong cases to that effect.

"Creem is chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee and effectively acts as the chamber’s gatekeeper on alimony bills. To stem some of the criticism that was mounting last fall, she appointed a task force to make recommendations on reform. When I interviewed her last fall, she indicated that she didn’t really see much of a problem, and also rejected the idea that she might have a conflict of interest. She’s wrong on both counts.

"Some of the problems: The system is too arbitrary, with judges operating under virtually no guidelines. Also, in Massachusetts, unlike most states, alimony is a lifetime commitment, harkening back to the days when women couldn’t be expected to support themselves. Finally, the system completely shafts subsequent spouses, whose salaries and assets are considered in determining payments." More...

Years and marriages later, they still pay

By Bella English, Globe Staff  |  July 18, 2010

"Steve Niro got married in 1981 at age 23 and divorced less than five years later. At the time of the divorce, he and his wife were in their late 20s, and both were working. Niro remarried nearly 15 years ago, but he’s still paying his alimony.

"Two years ago, Niro’s youngest son graduated from college, ending child support payments and leaving his former wife with alimony of $65 a week. “The next thing I know, I get summonsed to court for alimony adjustment,’’ he says. A probate court judge increased the alimony to $700 a week even though the couple had divorced nearly a quarter of a century ago — five times longer than they were married."

"The current law sets no formulas or guidelines, saying only that the length of the marriage, assets, occupation, and employment aspects will be considered in setting alimony. Massachusetts probate judges have relied largely on case law and generally consider any marriage of more than 20 years a long-term marriage that merits lifetime alimony, or payments until the recipient remarries. But often marriages of much shorter duration — such as Niro’s — also result in lifetime payments.

"In his decision, Worcester County Probate Judge Ronald King noted that Carol Niro reared the children largely by herself and was unemployed for a year after she was laid off from her job as an administrative assistant. Further, King said that since Steve Niro has an executive salary and Carol Niro was making $30,000 a year as a preschool teacher, he should pay his former wife 30 percent of the difference between their annual incomes, or $36,000 a year indefinitely." More...

Mother of disabled son must pay ex-husband

By Bella English, Globe Staff  |  July 18, 2010

Eileen Buckley was married to a man who didn’t work much, even though he had a master’s of business administration from MIT that she helped finance. “I figured out he worked seven years out of the 28 we were married,’’ says Buckley, who divorced in January 2009. “His argument that he was a stay-at-home dad falls apart because he was unemployed for a long time before our son was born.’’

At the divorce, her husband got half their assets, including a house in Connecticut, where he now lives. She was ordered to pay him alimony of $2,000 a month. The couple has an autistic son for whom she has full financial responsibility. More...

Provider must prove his finances changed

By Bella English, Globe Staff  |  July 18, 2010

"One Friday, Joel Skolnick says, he looked at his checking account and realized he could pay his alimony or meet payroll at his Needham printing business.
When he and his wife, Nancy, divorced 10 years ago after 34 years of marriage, Skolnick was ordered to pay $6,000 a month. With life and health insurance, he says he has paid about $750,000 over the past decade, plus $1.5 million in marital assets.

"At the time of his divorce, he was doing well financially.

"But his stock portfolio plunged, his real estate holdings went under, and his printing business fell off, he says. He went back to court to prove that he had a change in circumstances.

“It took me two years and cost me over $100,000 in legal fees to prove that I couldn’t continue to pay her $75,000 a year in alimony,’’ says Joel Skolnick, 66. The judge released him from alimony on the condition that he retire and sell his business, which he did. His former wife is appealing, and the fight has cost him $30,000.

“My ex-wife has a college degree and is perfectly capable of getting a job, but why should she when she’s getting $6,000 a month?’’ he says. “I became literally an indentured servant, and she became a lottery winner.’’ More...

SJC rules postnups have legal weight

Sets guidelines for judges to review, OK deals
By Jonathan Saltzman and John R. Ellement
Globe Staff / July 17, 2010

"For the first time, the state’s highest court unanimously ruled yesterday that postnuptial agreements signed before a divorce can be enforced by judges, a decision that legal specialists say could make such contracts more common."

"Addressing a matter that has long sown doubt among Massachusetts family law specialists, the Supreme Judicial Court said postnuptial agreements that divide financial assets must be scrutinized to make sure they were not negotiated fraudulently or coerced by a spouse with threats of divorce. But if the agreements meet stringent standards, they should be enforced." More...

Pre-Nuptial Agreements

Will You Sign a Prenup?

By MARY PILON , The Wall Street Journal, July 3, 2010

"Baby boomers looking to protect their assets are increasingly turning to prenuptial agreements—legal contracts drawn up before a marriage that dictate what happens to assets in the event a couple should part ways, either by divorce or death.

"Baby boomers are more likely to get married multiple times than younger or older couples because they also are more likely to have gotten divorced. Almost 40% of boomers who have been married have gone through at least one divorce, according to 2004 Census data, the most recent available, while only about 30% of all people who have been married have been divorced. By their 50th birthday, 27% of boomers have moved on to their second or third marriage.

"The drafting of a prenuptial agreement, and the discussion surrounding it, should begin several months before the wedding date. If the signing terms of a prenup are later deemed rushed or ill-informed, a court can choose not to enforce the contract. Prenups are contracts, after all, and lawyers rely on decades of case law for guidance in drafting them. That has made the documents more complicated.

"There still isn't any guarantee that the agreement would be bulletproof from future challenges by a former spouse, says Gary Skoloff, a family lawyer with Skoloff & Wolfe in Livingston, N.J. "A lawyer can no more guarantee that a prenup is enforced than a doctor can guarantee the result of a surgery," he says. Having each party represented by a lawyer generally decreases the likelihood that a judge might deem a prenup unfit, experts say." More...

Massachusetts Election 2010

Alimony Reform bill (H1785) waiting on casino bill battle

June 29, 2010: Massachusett Election 2010

The Massachusetts alimony reform bill (H1785) is for now stuck in committee while key legislators are busy with the casino bill battle.

A compromise alimony reform bill is being worked on in the Alimony Reform Task force.

The task force has met several times now, and worked out much of the compromise. The task force is hoping to be able to recommend a compromise bill at their next meeting.

But there is now difficulty in scheduling their next meeting because several of the legislators are busy trying to overcome opposition to the casino bill. It’s likely that a new meeting will be scheduled in the next few weeks. More...

As recession hits manual labor, men suffer more

by Lisa van der Pool, Friday, June 18, 2010

Call it a “hecession.” Job losses fell disproportionately on the shoulders of Massachusetts men for the past few years, underscoring the shift in the economy favoring knowledge workers.

Male employment dropped by 135,000 from the second half of 2007 to the second half of 2009, yet the female workforce increased by 54,000, according to new research from Northeastern University. The ratio of male-to-female job loss in Massachusetts was the highest in the nation.

And while experts are not positive as to why so many more men have been left holding pink slips, anecdotal evidence points to the fact that the recent recession hit some blue-collar sectors, like manufacturing and construction, much harder than other industries. Meanwhile, industries that remained solid during the recession, like education, health care, and professional services, tend to employ a high number of women.

Indeed, in Massachusetts, about 25 percent of unemployment claims are from people who had construction jobs, said Robert Smith, director of policy and planning for the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development in Boston. More...

Now, Dad Feels as Stressed as Mom

By TARA PARKER-POPE, Published: June 18, 2010, The New York Times

For decades, the debate about balancing work and family life has been framed as an issue for women. Many studies have shown that motherhood is more taxing than fatherhood; mothers typically reported higher levels of unhappiness than women without children or men in general. Over the years, this disparity has helped fuel the gender wars, in policy debates and at home, often over a pile of dirty laundry.

Men, the truism went, did not do their share of the grocery shopping or diaper changing. They let women pull the double shift.

But several studies show that fathers are now struggling just as much — and sometimes even more — than mothers in trying to fulfill their responsibilities at home and in the office. Just last week, Boston College released a study called “The New Dad” suggesting that new fathers face a subtle bias in the workplace, which fails to recognize their stepped-up family responsibilities and presumes that they will be largely unaffected by children.

Fathers also seem more unhappy than mothers with the juggling act: In dual-earner couples, 59 percent of fathers report some level of “work-life conflict,” compared with about 45 percent of women, according to a 2008 report from the Families and Work Institute in New York. More...

NY Senate Passes Alimony Guidelines as Part of No-Fault Divorce

BILL NUMBER:S7740A REVISED 06/04/10

TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the domestic relations law, in relation to interim spousal support and post-marital income obligations; and to repeal certain provisions of such law relating thereto

PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: To provide predictability and consistency with regard to calculating interim spousal support (formerly "temporary maintenance") and post-marital income obligations (formerly "maintenance").

JUSTIFICATION: Under existing law, awards of maintenance differ widely for couples with similar incomes and similar length of marriage. This lack of consistency and predictability in maintenance awards undermines confidence in the judicial system and encourages costly litigation by impeding the settling of cases. By establishing guidelines for the amount and duration of the award, post-marital income guidelines provide the consistency and predictability for spousal support that the Child Support Standards Act has provided for child support. Most families do not have substantial assets to divide upon the dissolution of a marriage-the greatest asset of the marriage is frequently the income of the more-monied spouse. The less-monied spouse often invests time and energy supporting his or her spouse's career, raising the children, and taking care of the home. Current law fails to provide adequate guidance as to how to divide the asset of future earned income in an equitable manner. Post-marital income guidelines only result in an award when there is an income gap between the two parties such that the less-monied spouse's income is less than two thirds of the more-monied spouse's income. For instance, if the payor's annual income is $90,000 a year, the guidelines will only result in an award if the payee's annual income is less than $60,000. The guidelines provide protections for payors at both ends of the income spectrum. The formula is only applied to the payor's income up to $500,000. The guidelines also include a rebuttable presumption that individuals whose annual income is less than the self-support reserve (135% of the Federal poverty Guidelines) do not have the financial means to make a maintenance payment. More...

The 40-year Itch, by DEIRDRE BAIR

Some key points from this New York Times Op-Ed article regarding divorces after long-term marriages:

  • "And their divorces do not all that often involve husbands running off with someone new, leaving wives alone and bereft. A 2004 AARP survey of 1,147 people who divorced in their 40s, 50s or 60s found that women initiated late-life divorces more often than men did, and if the divorced women wanted a new partner, they usually found one."
  • "Men and women I interviewed insisted they did not divorce foolishly or impulsively. Most of them mentioned “freedom.” Another word I heard a lot was “control”; people wanted it for themselves for the rest of their lives. Women had grown tired of taking care of house, husband and grown children; men were tired of working to support wives who they felt did not appreciate them and children who did not respect them. Women and men alike wanted time to find out who they were."
  • "Divorce is easier now. Our retirement years are longer and healthier. Both men and women often have enough money to make changes. And the stigma of divorce has long since faded."
  • "Margaret Mead thought every woman needed three husbands: one for youthful sex, one for security while raising children and one for joyful companionship in old age. In the 21st century, Margaret Drabble, the British novelist, calls life after divorce “the third age.” The heroine of her novel “The Seven Sisters” says, “Our dependents have died or matured. For good and ill, we are free.”

MAR Editor's Note: Based on this New York Times Op-Ed article, MA alimony law is even more anachronistic. If divorce is often a lifestyle choice, more frequently made by women than men, then why should men, second wives, or any higher-earning spouse subsidize this free and willful choice of the lower-earning spouse for life — forcing the higher-earning spouse to life-long threat of jail, bankruptcy, and loss of financial freedom?

Alimony Reform Proposed in Massachusetts

FindLaw KnowledgeBase, April 21, 2010, By David M. Gabriel & Associates

"Massachusetts’s lawmakers could soon change the state's standard lifetime alimony awards with awards that expire at the payer's retirement age and offer more room for modification. The changes could also end Massachusetts' unusual rules that require a second wife to pay alimony to the first in cases of income loss by the husband."

Two legislative bills would put the state's alimony laws in line with its New England neighbors. A state House bill would limit awards to half the marriage duration, with a maximum of 12 years and an automatic end of payments when the payer turns 65. Awards also would shrink by 10 percent per year after five years. The bill attracted a near-record number of sponsors last year. More...

Massachusetts Election 2010
Grassroots Politics for Independent Massachusetts Voters
March 9, 2010

Cynthia Creem faces Ethics Questions over Alimony Reform

The public debate over two dueling alimony reform bills has called into question whether Sen. Cynthia Creem has a conflict of interest.

There are two bills currently up for discussion in the Legislature, s1616 and h1785. Both concern time limits for alimony payments.

Massachusetts’ current alimony law does not empower judges to cap the duration of an alimony award, enabling post-divorce settlements that can last a lifetime. The current law has drawn fire from alimony payors who say they’ve been forced for years to pay large percentages of their incomes, occasionally forcing them into bankruptcy. MORE...

The Boston Herald

Alimony reform: pending legislation suggest that changes may be ahead

By Charla Bizios Stevens and Erin Harris  / Law   |   Monday, March 1, 2010 

With competing bills pending before the House and Senate, alimony reform may be on the horizon in Massachusetts.

For decades, alimony laws in the Commonwealth have remained unchanged, with lifetime alimony awards being favored and high standards for modification of an existing award.

Both bills share the goal of bringing Massachusetts more in line with the national trend towards durational or rehabilitative awards, as is common in neighboring New Hampshire and Maine. In states such as New Hampshire, where alimony is considered rehabilitative, courts look at many factors in deciding on the amount and duration of alimony.

One such factor may be whether the recipient is in need of income supplementation to allow him or her to obtain additional education or training to return to the work force after a delay caused by homemaking and childrearing. More...

Role adjustments

Couples adapt as women become bigger breadwinners
By Taryn Plumb, Globe Correspondent  |  February 18, 2010

"It’s no revelation that women have smashed the stereotypes embodied by Harriet Nelson and June Cleaver. New research is showing that women are not only contributing more to the household bottom line - they are increasingly the larger, sometimes even the sole, breadwinner. And for the first time in US history, women are about to outnumber men in the workforce - and, according to some projections, within two decades women will outnumber men as the home’s major breadwinner."

"Just as women entering the workforce required a big adjustment in the attitudes that for generations defined marriages, another big adjustment is needed now with wives earning more on average than their husbands. If it was dying before, the idea of families having a “traditional breadwinner’’ seems officially dead."

"A recent study by the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute found that wives’ earnings comprised 45 percent of the total family income in 2008. That marked a 1 percent increase from 2007 and was up from 42 percent in 1999. Kristin Smith, the study’s author, said the latest increase is more significant than it sounds: It represents the biggest single-year increase in 10 years." More...

As Women Earn More, Alimony Laws Lag Behind

February 2, 2010
The Wall Street Journal, The Juggle Section, By Rachel Emma Silverman

As we recently wrote, women now make up almost half of the American work force and a growing number of women are becoming their families’ primary breadwinners.

But while the economics of marriage have undergone major transformations, the economics of divorce haven’t kept up. As my WSJ colleague Jennifer Levitz reports, there is a growing movement, spurred by the recession, to change how alimony is paid.

Alimony, or spousal-support payments, typically involves a husband supporting his ex-wife long after the demise of the marriage. (Alimony is separate from child-support payments.) Men accounted for 97% of alimony-payers in 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, although the share of women supporting ex-husbands is on the rise. More...

Massachusetts proposes changes to alimony laws

By Jill Boynton, co-founder of Cornerstone Financial Planning
December 18, 2009

"The fact that the amount and term of alimony (while taking into account the length of marriage and earnings of both parties) are at the discretion of the court gives the judge too much flexibility. In addition, with the ability of women to work and earn their own living, rules that were created in a different era don't apply anymore. I once heard a mediator in a divorce case remind a spouse that "divorce is not a pension plan" and that she shouldn't expect to be taken care of for the rest of her life. I think that is a fair and equitable way to look at the situation. Of course there will always be situations when lifetime alimony may be necessary and the bill won't deny those parties their due. But remember that the purpose of alimony is to support the lesser-earning spouse while he or she does what is necessary to become self-sufficient. More...

It may be time to get rid of alimony

It may be time to get rid of alimony

November 30, 10:12 AM Bruce Maiman

"I defy any lawyer to give me an interpretation of the line in quotes in this story in the Wall Street Journal [referring to the alimony court case of Paul and Theresa Taylor] that the two parties agreed to "waive any right to past, present or future alimony."

If you're a lawyer or a linguist or an English professor, can you explain to me where the wiggle room is in that statement? The two parties agreed to "waive any right to past, present or future alimony."

How can that mean anything but, "You don't have a case, Mrs. Taylor," and yet the court awarded this woman a $400 a week alimony payment out of this man's pension.

How in Heaven's name can that be seen as justice or fair?

Is that what has become of a marriage and its dissolution? No matter what agreement we sign, unless we have an iron clad pre-nup we're forever at risk from people who can't keep their word, even by dint of a legal document? Is there even a legal document that can absolutely protect you in a situation like this?" More...

BOSTON HERALD

Girl/Boy friend's Income and Assets Subject to Alimony For First Wife

By Gerald Nissenbaum  / Divorce 411
Sunday, November 29, 2009

Q. Your Oct. 4 column said that an ex-husband could subpoena the financial records of a woman’s live-in boyfriend. How can that be? They don’t have any legal relationship and he’s probably not on the lease or mortgage. He can move out at any time. To me your advice seems wrong.
- N.G., Ashfield

A. Trust me, I’m not wrong. If you’re living with a woman and your ex-wife seeks more alimony or child support - or if you’re looking to cut down your payments - your girlfriend’s records can be subpoenaed into court.

For example, if your galpal is paying some of your expenses, that increases your ability to pay alimony and child support. So the judge may order you to pony up more. If you’re paying more money for your lady friend’s expenses than your alimony and child support, the judge also could find you can afford to pay more. More...

BOSTON HERALD

Alimony payer critical of Mass.

By Gerald Nissenbaum  / Divorce 411
Sunday, November 22, 2009

Q. I’ve heard there’s a chance Massachusetts might change its alimony laws to give judges the power to order payments only for a limited number of years, perhaps with a mandatory cutoff at one-half of the total number of years the marriage lasted.
If this new law gets passed, will it apply to existing alimony orders like mine?
- T.M., Boxford

A. When issuing an order of alimony, Massachusetts judges have no authority to limit the number of years payments must be made.

Many people think the current law is unfair and out of touch with the real world. Some point to Maine, which permits limited support. There, for spouses who want traditional alimony, they probably won’t get anything if the marriage lasted less than 10 years. If they stayed hitched for 10 to 20 years, they will likely get alimony for only half the years they were married. More...

Hill: Lost faith in Rep. Peisch

Nov-18-2009
"...This past week, Rep. Peisch was interviewed on Fox-TV on the alimony reform bill. She supports Sen. Cynthia Creem's, D-Newton, watered-down alimony reform bill, rather than the bill that would make real and fair change. What a surprise. Sen. Creem shares a district with Rep. Peisch. Sen. Creem, who co-chairs the Judiciary Committee, is an actively practicing divorce lawyer. Can you say conflicts of interest?

Both Sen. Creem and Rep. Peisch know that Sen. Creem's bill would guarantee more litigation, thus more monies for divorce lawyers, not less.
In 2008, the Supreme Judicial Court provided a report on why more and more people are going pro se (represent themselves), even middle class persons. They said it was because more and more people could not afford the astronomical legal fees.

Passing alimony reform and shared parenting would reduce fees to lawyers.
So who can be surprised when Rep. Peisch supports the status quo? It is time we start thinking about a new legislator for our district who puts the needs of the people first." More...

DR. PETER HILL,
Weston

Huffington Post

Divorce Reform In Massachusetts: David vs. Goliath

By Tom Matlock, Co-founder of The Good Men Project
Nov-17-2009

If you have had the misfortune to go through a divorce in Massachusetts, you would understand that complete "Judicial Discretion" (what the BBA is promoting) is what causes parting spouses to fight endlessly in drawn out legal battles. When there are no guidelines and Judges have complete discretion, divorcing spouses have little basis for understanding what is fair and what is not. Thus, with the encouragement of divorce attorneys (always willing to rack up billable hours) couples fight endlessly over everything, especially alimony. This acrimony ruins relations between parting spouses, ruins the chance for a stable post-divorce environment for the children and drains the family coffers. More...

Alimony agony

By Adrian Walker
Globe Columnist / November 13, 2009

"Massachusetts divorce law gives trial judges broad discretion over both the amount and duration of support. The people - mostly divorce lawyers - who like the system the way it is say judges have the right to protect women who need and deserve it. The system’s many critics, meanwhile, say it creates an overly subjective and unpredictable maze that makes it difficult to ever completely sever ties with former spouses.

There are at least two major issues. In Massachusetts, unlike most other states, alimony is usually forever. And in Massachusetts, if a divorced person remarries, the income and assets of the new spouse can be used in determining how much alimony gets paid. Advocates scream, persuasively, that both provisions are unfair." More...

In Downturn's Wake, Women Hold Half of U.S. Jobs

November 11, 2009 by Kelly Evans

  • As of September, women held 49.9% of the nation's jobs, excluding farm workers and the self-employed, a rise of 1.2 percentage points from their 48.7% share when the recession began in December 2007. In 1970, women held 35% of jobs.

  • There is evidence that women's growing representation in the labor force stems not only from men losing their jobs but from women who previously didn't work seeking employment. Since the recession began, the number of women age 16 and over in the labor force -- which includes both the employed and those who are looking for work -- has expanded by 300,000 to 71.7 million.

  • Women are either the sole earner or make as much as or more than their male spouses in four out of 10 [40%] U.S. families with children under 18, said Heather Boushey, a senior economist with the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think tank. More...

Retirees Still Liable for Alimony, Massachusetts Court Rules

By ABBY GOODNOUGH
Published: November 9, 2009

BOSTON — The highest court in Massachusetts ruled Monday that alimony should not automatically end when the paying spouse reaches retirement age and stops earning income.

The ruling by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court comes at a time when some alimony payers and state lawmakers are pushing for changes to the state’s alimony laws, which they call overly harsh on higher-earning spouses. Those advocating the changes had hoped the court would effectively end lifetime alimony. More...

Top Court in Massachusetts Rejects Argument for New Curbs on Alimony

November 9, 2009
By William M. Buckley

The top court in Massachusetts ruled against a retiree who sought to end payments to his ex-wife, dealing a blow to a movement that is seeking time limits for alimony....

The top court ruled that judges can consider diminished financial ability to pay after retirement as they can in other changed circumstances. But the court declined to rule that judges should automatically accept retirement as a reason to cut alimony. More...

SJC: Retirement does not necessarily end alimony payments

November 9, 2009
By Andrew Ryan and Shelley Murphy,
Globe Staff

In Massachusetts, marriage really still does mean until death do you part -- even after divorce.

The Supreme Judicial Court today rejected a push to stop most alimony payments when someone reaches retirement age. The decision, which came in the divorce case of a former federal magistrate and state judge, noted that alimony payments can be lowered or, in some cases, cut off to reflect a person's actual income after retirement.

However, Associate Justice Ralph D. Gants wrote in the decision that a spouse paying alimony "may be expected temporarily to postpone retirement or to find part-time work to help the recipient spouse weather difficult financial circumstances." More...

Wife No. 2 Paying for Wife No. 1? Join the Club

By ALICE GOMSTYN, ABC NEWS Business Unit
Nov. 6, 2009

Massachusetts' 2nd Wives Club Lobbies to Change Rules on Alimony Payments

Stress over alimony payments to her husband's ex-wife nearly drove Deborah Scanlan to divorce. Helping her husband make alimony payments to his ex forced Jeanie Hitner to take on a second job. Both Massachusetts women now say they wish they'd never gotten married. Welcome to the 2nd Wives Club. The club, which claims 70 members and counting, consists mostly of married women who say that Massachusetts judges' rulings forced them to contribute to alimony payments for their partners' ex-wives.... Full Story

Wall Street Journal

The New Art of Alimony

By Jennifer Levitz, 10/31/2009

"The nature of marriage has changed dramatically over the decades. Women now make up almost half of the American work force. But alimony, a concept enshrined in ancient law, has remained remarkably constant. Now, the idea that a husband should continue to support his wife forever, even after the demise of their marriage—long a bedrock of divorce law—is being called into question. Pressures are mounting to change a practice that some see as outdated and unfair." More...

Metrowest Daily

Update sought for alimony criteria in Massachusetts

By David Riley/Daily News staff
Nov-01-09

"Modern marriage is not always a "'til death do us part" affair, but in Massachusetts, alimony can last a lifetime.
Many local legislators and family law attorneys agree time has come to update the state's alimony system, which they say allows judges little leeway to set a limit on the duration of spousal support payments.
"It really is not fair the way the statute is drafted now," said attorney Patrick Hart, of Hart Law Offices in Marlborough." More...

Lowell Sun

Lifetime alimony payments are archaic

The Lowell Sun Editorial
Updated: Oct-26-2009

Why, in the year 2009, do Massachusetts' alimony laws still read as if it were 1900? Why, when many women earn salaries just as high as men, does the Bay State have laws that make it seem as though women are incapable of supporting themselves?

The alimony laws in Massachusetts can trap many residents in a financial life sentence in which they must provide support to a former spouse, who quite often is perfectly capable of paying his or her own bills. (Approximately 96 percent of Massachusetts alimony recipients are women.) ... (More)

A bill proposed by state Rep. Steven M. Walsh, D-Lynn, could change that lifetime burden to a more manageable, and equitable, responsibility... (More) [see Alimony Reform Bill 1785]

Thanks to Massachusetts' archaic alimony laws, which are considerably less progressive than any other state, far too many former spouses are granted hefty alimony payments when they could easily support themselves. But why would they? It's a lot easier to deposit a check than to actually earn the money.

Unfair alimony awards also damage second marriages. The income of a second spouse is factored into adjusted alimony awards, which can cause stress in second marriages and prompts some people to live together instead of marrying.

If Massachusetts wants to maintain its reputation as a progressive state with a cerebral population, it must reform its antiquated alimony laws.

See the Entire Editorial at LowellSun.com

Bill could shorten alimony time

Lowell Sun

By Lisa Redmond, lredmond@lowellsun.com
Updated: Oct-23-2009


BOSTON -- Alimony. It used to be a lifetime sentence.
But under a new bill proposed by state Rep. Steven M. Walsh, D-Lynn, the financial chains of alimony can be unlocked after a maximum of 12 years unless there are minor children involved.

Under House bill 1785, Walsh writes that the goal of any spouse needing alimony shall be to be self-supporting within a "reasonable period of time.'' More...

Equality: More men getting spousal support
By McCLATCHY-TRIBUNE

October 19, 2009

It’s not rare anymore. In fact, in the last 30 years, more and more women who end their marriages are stuck paying support to their ex-spouses - also known as ‘‘manimony.’’

‘‘When I started practicing 30 years ago, I didn’t see it at all. Zero. And now I see it in about 10 percent of my cases: female clients having to pay their ex-husbands support,’’ said Lynne Gold-Bikin, 65, family law chair at WolfBlock LLP based in Morristown, Penn. ‘‘Part of the reason is the simple fact that over that period of time, more women are making more money." More...

Role Reversal, Women Paying Alimony

Role Reversal: Ex-Wives Angry Over Paying Alimony

Sep-30-2009

He got their second house, an investment property she had bought in Costa Rica, and a $96,000 annual alimony payment.

She got angry.

"It's so obscene," said Holly Chiancola, 52, a Gloucester, Mass. real estate agent who is fighting the terms of a divorce settlement ordered by a judge in 2006.

You used to hear about divorced men complaining that their ex-wives were unfairly cutting into their income. Now, as more women become primary breadwinners, the complaints increasingly come from them. The number of American men receiving alimony has climbed, from 7,000 in 1998 to 13,000 last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

More...

Boston Bar Association wades into divorce law spat

Bar association wades into divorce law spat

Friday, September 25, 2009 Boston Business Journal - by Lisa van der Pool

"The current law – which does not allow judges to cap the duration of an alimony award, enabling post-divorce payments that last a lifetime – has drawn fierce criticism for decades."

Pierce v. Pierce
Ending Alimony At Retirement

September 8, 2009.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial CourtThe MA Supreme Judicial Court heard Briefs on whether an alimony payer may retire and end alimony payments (see Rudolph Pierce Brief; Listen to Oral Arguments; Read American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers support for retirement and alimony termination.)

Boston Magazine:
Till Death Do Us Pay

By Kris Frieswick, Jun-30-2009

July 2009 Boston Magazine: Till Death Do Us Pay"The poster child for progressive marriage laws, Massachusetts is also a singularly nightmarish place to get a divorce—especially for the better-off spouse. Now a brewing reform movement is pushing to rewrite the state's outdated alimony rules, led by one very fed-up ex-husband."

"That makes the state's alimony system one that not only punishes some men, but also takes a dim view of the women it's supposed to help, enshrining biases that treat them as if it's the 1950s and women are uneducated, unemployable traditional mother/homemakers who shouldn't be stripped of the lifestyle to which they've grown accustomed. Actually, Ira Mark Ellman, a professor at Arizona State University's law school and author of the American Law Institute's recommendations on family law and alimony, would go further than that, having looked at our setup. "It's like a leftover from the old gender-based laws, 'women can't work, we can't put that obligation on them,'" he says. "It's right out of 1850.""

To download the full article, Till Death Do Us Pay

Should Permanent Alimony Be Eliminated?

Massachusetts School Of LawDownload the Report (See page 12 of the Winter 2009 edition of The Reformer*); Winter 2009

A report by Barbara von Hauzen, Esq. evaluates alimony in Massachusetts and recommends changes, which are consistent with Mass Alimony Reform's new law.

"The continuance of a permanent, unrevised alimony award perpetuates unfairness on the obligor. This stifles the obligor’s ability to financially reposition him or herself or may shutout other relational or vocational opportunities. In essence, the award becomes a permanent penalty to the payor and a windfall to the payee. Although we recognize that alimony is a civil matter, it is fair to say that the permanency of today’s alimony award results in incarceration with no chance of parole."

"And so, in Massachusetts, the question remains unanswered: “if marriage is terminable at will, and marital support obligations end upon
divorce, what is the justification for imposing continued financial responsibilities upon the parties?” Now is the time for the Massachusetts legislature and courts to answer this question."

The Huffington Post

Divorce Arianna-Style (c. 2009) vs. Massachusetts Alimony (c. 1850)

By Elizabeth Benedict and Tom Matlack; Jul-09-2009

"When a couple divorces - in a no-fault divorce - a judge typically awards hefty alimony with no end date, even to spouses who are educated, employed, highly accomplished - and even those who have received millions in marital assets or inheritance. Judges who put an expiration date on alimony are often overturned on appeal. With ongoing alimony, a divorced couple must return repeatedly to probate court whenever their circumstances change - illness, job loss, retirement - and petition for a modification up or down."

American Academy of Matrimonial LawyersRising Unemployment Creating More Work for Divorce Lawyers

PRNewswire; Mar-31-2009

Big Spike in Child Support and Alimony Modifications According to Latest Survey of Nation's Top Attorneys

CHICAGO, March 31 /PRNewswire/ -- As the recession continues to deepen and job cuts accelerate, a rapidly rising number of divorced spouses are requesting changes be made to child support and alimony arrangements. In a recent survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), 39% of the nation's top divorce attorneys cite an increase in modifications being made to child support payments. Additionally, 42% of the members report a rise in the number of changes made to alimony payments. [Emphasis added]

SOURCE American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML)

Mass Alimony Reform Bill Filed, 72 Legislative Co-Sponsors

Alimony Reform BillFeb-14-2009

Four Alimony Reform bills were filed in the current legislative session. Our bill, which was one of the four, had an outstanding 72 legislative co-sponsors.

Our Bill will be sent to the Joint Committee of the Judiciary for a hearing, at which time we will have the opportunity to be present and testify. Members of MASS ALIMONY REFORM will receive a notice from Steve Hitner as soon as we are notified of the date, time, and location. Members will receive instructions on how to prepare to testify, including the proper procedures for writing and submitting your testimony to the Committee.

Finally, continue to email your state representative and senator to support this bill. Tell your story in an honest, direct, and respectful manner.

Download Mass Alimony Reform Bill 2009 with co-sonsor list

Letter To The Editor, Mass Lawyer's Weekly

With just laws, less for couples to fight over

Nov-24-2008
To the editor: Because of the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts, the image of the commonwealth as a land of enlightenment shines brighter than ever. But the state’s archaic alimony laws tell a story of such harsh, pervasive injustice that it’s hard to believe we’re talking about the same place.

[Download the full letter.]

Mass Bar Task force calls for limits on amount, duration of alimony

By: Barbara Rabinovitz, Lawyer's Weekly
Published: November 10, 2008

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly"A task force seeking standards for “reasonableness” in the amount and duration of alimony has recommended in a draft report that the dollar amount of alimony not be more than 33 percent of the difference between the parties’ incomes.

That income guideline is one of several recommendations contained in a seven-page report by the Joint Massachusetts Bar Association/Boston Bar Association Alimony Task Force, whose mission since its inception a year ago has been to stimulate discussion on how best to foster “consistency and predictability” in alimony awards.

“There has been a lot of concern and confusion about the state of alimony in Massachusetts, raised by a variety of decisions from the appellate courts over the past years,” said task force Co-Chair David H. Lee, a 35-year Boston domestic relations practitioner.

The issues that have proved particularly nettlesome, according to Lee, include duration of alimony, retirement by a supporting spouse and its impact on alimony, and the effect of child support on alimony."

Source: Lawyer's Weekly. The above text is an excerpt from the article. (More news on the joint MBA/BBA task force is shown below.)

Mass Lawyers Offer Alimony Calculator

Nov-10-2008
Massachusetts lawyers Scott R. Stevenson and Justin L. Kelsey provide a first look at the MBA-BBA alimony task force recommendations in their Stevenson-Kelsey Spousal Support Calculator.

[Comment By M.A.R.:The complexity of the law requires lawyers and a calculator, leaving divorcing couples receiving different alimony decisions depending on the personal discretion of each and every judge. Such differing application of the law to the same situation is a violation of the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution (Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1).]

WBUR's Hear and Now Discussion On Alimony Reform

Jul-30-2008
Elizabeth Benedict (writer and author) discusses how the Massachusetts alimony laws put a heavy financial burden on second wives by imposing alimony on them to pay for the lifestyle of their new husband's former spouse. Sally Frank, attorney and law professor at Drake University, also joins us to discuss divorce law. To listen to the discussion, go to Here-and-Now Alimony.

WGBH Discussion on Alimony Reform

Jul-27-2008
Elizabeth Benedict (writer and author), Tim Taylor (drafted reform bill), and Gerald Nissenbaum (divorce attorney) discussed with Emily Rooney, host of WGBH TV's "Greater Boston" show, the "chilling effects of Massachusetts alimony laws". Ms. Rooney commented that Massachusetts divorce laws are "very, very strict... a bit draconian."

WTTK Discussion on Women Canceling Weddings To Divorced Men

Jun-28-2008
Popular radio host Michele McPhee (96.9FM) did a short piece about Elizabeth Benedict's op-ed in the Globe (June 13), and interviewed Ms. Benedict on women who read the op-ed and canceled their weddings to divorced men within hours.

The Huffington Post: Never-Ending Alimony

Jun-16-2008
Elizabeth Benedict (writer and author) wrote an essay for The Huffington Post, "Never-Ending Alimony in Massachusetts".

Mass Lawyer Comments On Chilling Effects Of Alimony Law

Attorney Stephen Ballard wrote in his blog, Jun-14-2008

"The main point that should be taken away from her article, in my opinion, is that the law on alimony is so vague as to permit a huge divergence of results, from one case to another. I would add that these results often depend on factors that should not be important and determinative: they are factors primarily related to the quality and experience of the judge, rather than factors actually relating to the facts of the individual cases"

Boston Globe Op-Ed: Chilling Divorce Laws

Boston Globe: The Chilling Effect of Divorce LawsJun-13-2008
Elizabeth Benedict (writer and author) wrote a featured Op-Ed essay in the Boston Globe, "The Chilling Effect of States Divorce Laws".

"Welcome to Massachusetts. In the 1980s, it was known as Taxachusetts. These days, it's known as the state whose divorce laws are so out of date that many people decide against marrying here - or marrying anyone anywhere whose alimony obligations originate here. I'm one of them. Two divorce lawyers tell me that the state's laws are so extreme they have "a chilling effect on marriage." Prenups offer no guarantees. Judges routinely ignore them."

Constitutional Challenge

Jun-12-2008
Ernie and Cathy Ortiz presented their case for the unconstitutionality of lifetime alimony at the John Adams Courthouse, One Pemberton Square, Boston (View court documents.)

Massachusetts' Joint Judiciary Committee Drops Reform

Mar-19-2008
Despite uncontested hearings in support of Massachusetts Alimony Reform and members' letters to the Judiciary Committee, the committee voted to kill reform in 2008 by voting to "study" the bill. We will reintroduce the bill for 2009. Members of the Judiciary Committee may be found at http://www.mass.gov/legis/comm/j19.htm.

Hearing Held at Joint Committee of the Judiciary

Jan-24-2008
Member of the Massachusetts Alimony Reform group and the Second Wives Club testified before the Judiciary Committee on their personal horror stories caused by lifetime alimony, wide disparity and discretion across Massachusetts judges decisions, and curtailment of civil rights for alimony payers and their second wives. The bill the group was supporting was filed by Massachusetts State Representative Stephen LeDuc and was marked House Bill No. 1567.

Massachusetts Men and Women Looking For Alimony Reform

Jan-23-2008
Massachusetts Alimony Reform issued a press release through PRNewswires that was picked up by news organizations across the United States. Just Google the text in the above headline to see a list of the many reprints in such publications as FindLaw, Reuters, and News Blaze.

Massachusetts Bar Recognizes Need For Alimony Reform

Jan-02-2008
"At the 2006 Family Law Conference, our alimony CLE panel identified a need for alimony reform, as alimony awards are not currently either uniform or predictable. The amounts vary widely among judges. Judges currently have only very limited discretion to set the duration of an award. To remedy these deficiencies, the MBA, through President Mark Mason, determined to form a high level alimony study committee in partnership with the Boston Bar Association, the Probate and Family Court and the Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

The court has committed two prominent judges to participate on the committee. MBA Vice President Denise Squillante will co-chair, along with an appointee of the BBA. We anticipate that the work of the committee will continue through next year, and that the product will be a white paper to be presented at a symposium and published. This committee will be formally announced at the May 23, 2007 House of Delegates meeting." Source: Massachusetts Bar Association, 2006-07 Year In Review.

Mass Bar and Boston Bar "Debates Future and Fairness of Alimony Awards"

Dec-2007
"The Massachusetts alimony debate centers around “and duration,” two words amending G.L.c. 208 § 34 concerning the apparent breadth of discretion available to the court in fixing alimony orders. The task force hopes to recommend standards for reasonableness of amount and duration."

“It is confusing because the Appellate Court is making decisions based on a case-by-case basis,” said MBA Vice President Denise Squillante, the MBA’s co-chair on the task force. “There is no precedent set. There is a fear from the bench that if they award alimony, it will be forever.”

Source: MBA–BBA task force debates future and fairness of alimony awards, by Kelsey Sadoff, Lawyer's Journal, December, 2007