UNTIL A much-needed reform in 2011, the alimony and divorce laws in Massachusetts were among the most antiquated and unfair in the nation. The law that the Legislature approved unanimously that year modernized alimony rules and curbed abuses in the system, in which some spouses continued to receive alimony long after it was appropriate.
Now the Legislature is confronting a thorny question with no obvious answer: Should couples who divorced under the old law — the very law whose flaws were the whole reason for the reform — have to continue living under its legacy?
Or, to put it in human terms: Should the Legislature cut off alimony payments to some spouses, mostly women, who feel that divorce terms negotiated under the old rules should stand, or should they require paying spouses, mostly men, to continue paying alimony under conditions that the Legislature has recognized may be unreasonable?
State Senator William Brownsberger, whose judiciary committee is looking at the legislation, called it a zero-sum game, and he’s right: Someone is going to come away feeling robbed. But while applying the reforms retroactively will undoubtedly create disruption, legislators should approve a bill that would extend the 2011 reforms. As a matter of fairness, all couples in Massachusetts should be subject to the same rules. More...