Women and men seeking term limits to alimony.
cohabitation and the right to retire nixed by the SJC
For women and Men divorced before march 1, 2012
Mass Alimony Reform is working to fix the Supreme Judicial Court's (SJC) decisions in three January 2015 cases (Chin v Merriot, Rodman v Rodman, Doktor v Doktor). Despite the clear intent of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, these decisions ended the benefits of the alimony reform law for persons divorced before March 1, 2012. The court's action reinstated alimony payments: a) for life, and b) to recipients who share a common household (co-habitating ex-spouses).
The SJC's decision also ignored the House and Senate's Alimony Reform Task Force and the many participants supporting the unanimous vote of both the House and Senate for alimony reform, including the Massachusetts Bar Association, The Women's Bar Association, and the Boston Bar Association).
The Legislature Must Act Now To Fix 2015 SJC misinterpretations
Step 1: Communicate! "Support H.740 To Fix Court Revisions"
Let your House and Senate members simply know that you want their support for House Bill H.740, a bill to provide a technical fix to the court's 2015 decision. H.740 was sponsored by 40 Massachusetts senators and hose members.
What H.740 Does and Does Not Do.
Does: Allows all alimony payers the right to file a complaint for modification with the Massachusetts Probate & Family Court to terminate alimony payments based on their ex-spouse's cohabitation, the durational guidelines of the Alimony Reform Act [the "Act"], and reaching the age for full retirement under Social Security regardless if their marriage ended prior to March 1, 2012.
Does Not Do: H.740 is not an automatic termination of alimony. While the alimony payer has the right to file for modification with the court, the filing does not grant an automatic end to alimony payments. Under the Alimony Reform Act, reaching the Act's durational limits shall be deemed a material change of circumstance to be considered by the court. However, the court will only grant alimony termination if the court finds that deviation from those limits is warranted for good cause and such cause is in writing.
Does: The burden of proof to continue alimony payments after the durational limits of the Act rests with the alimony receiver after the payers' filing of a modification with the court. The alimony receiver must meet specified conditions -- in accordance with the Act -- to continue receiving payments from their divorced, alimony-paying spouse. Such conditions shall be considered by the court.
Does Not Do: Similar to the durational limits, cohabitation does not result in an automatic termination. A complaint for modification must be filed with the court. The payor must meet the burden of proof whether the alimony should be reduced, suspended, or terminated.
Does Not Do: Non-modifiable separation agreements are not changed by H.740 or the Alimony Reform Law. "No existing alimony judgment under this section where the parties have agreed in writing that the existing alimony judgment survives or is not modifiable shall be modified by a court without the consent of both parties."
Step 2: Tell Your Legislators to Support Passage of H.740
The best way to get a bill passed into law is encourage your House and Senate members to support the bill
To get started, click the link for your State legislator contact information. We recommend calling your legislator directly, rather than initially sending an email. Use an email to follow-up on the call, and then to keep following up.
Please contact Steve Hitner and arrange a meeting with your legislators, so that Steve can bring his supporting information on a) why the Bill is needed, b) the history of the Bill, and c) why supporting the Bill is necessary now.
Divorce Coach, Consultant, and Mediator
President, Mass Alimony Reform
Member, 2011 Alimony Reform Task Force
Member, Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation
213 Main Street, Suite 201
Hudson, Mass 01749
Steveh [@] usdivorcemediation.com
Step 3: Support mass Alimony Reform with time and donations
Also, please support the Alimony Reform efforts with your time and a donation. Your donation offsets the cost of printing the legislative briefing notebooks, parking in Boston, and other expenses to get the Bill introduced and passed into law.
Update: SJC Approves Constitutionality Of Ending Alimony Payments For Marriages Less Than 20 years For Divorces Prior To March 1, 2012
Some good SJC news! Two spring 2017 SJC decisions ruled the constitutionality of ending alimony payments for divorces prior to March 1, 2012 that are subject to durational limits of the Alimony Reform Act. "The durational limits, outlined in G. L. c. 208, s. 49(b) of the Act, provide termination dates for general term alimony obligations arising from marriages lasting fewer than twenty (20) years." [Reference]
The ruling did not change the SJC 2015 ruling that restricted alimony reform for divorces prior to March 1, 2012 involving long term marriages greater than 20 years. We still need legislation to fix the 2015 court decision. However, these newer SJC decisions are important for overcoming the negative criticsm that the new alimony reform bill H.740 is unconstitutional because it applies alimony reform provision retroactively.
- Van Arsdale Vs. Van Arsdale. "This appeal raises the constitutionality of applying the durational limits of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 (act), St. 2011, c. 124, to certain alimony agreements predating the act's effective date. We conclude that the application of the act's durational limits to certain alimony agreements that predate the act is not unconstitutionally retroactive because the statute does not attach "new legal consequences to events completed before its enactment." [Reference]
- Popp Vs. Popp. "For reasons set forth in its decision issued today in Van Arsdale v. Van Arsdale, 477 Mass. __ (2017), the Supreme Judicial Court held that the durational limits of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 are constitutional." [Reference]