ByÂ Cheryl Wetzstein-The Washington Times
Gov. Deval PatrickÂ has signed a sweeping reform of Massachusettsâ€™ alimony system that activists are praising as bringing rational criteria to a hodgepodge system and for ending â€œalimony-until-deathâ€ payments.
Once the alimony law goes into effect March 1, divorcing couples will see their alimony payments established based on numerous factors, such as length of marriage, ages, income, employability and spousal conduct during the marriage.
â€œJudges will now be able to consider the facts of each case in determining alimony orders,â€ saidÂ Denise Squillante, past president of theÂ Massachusetts Bar Association. Before, she said, litigants were faced with â€œa hodgepodge of conflicting alimony orders.â€
Mr. Patrick, who signed the law at theÂ statehouse MondayÂ after both legislative chambers passed it unanimously, praised the law as â€œan important set of reforms to modernize and make more fair the alimony system.â€
Activists with MassachusettsÂ Alimony Reform, who gathered â€œhorror storiesâ€ for lawmakers, thanked them for the â€œlong-overdueâ€ reform.
Under the new law, judges will be able to time-limit alimony, and assign it based on need and fairness. For instance, if a coupleâ€™s marriage fails after a few years, a spouse may be asked to pay a specific amount of alimony to help the other complete job training. Also, payments, which normally end if the receiving spouse marries again, now also can be suspended if the spouse cohabits with a lover, even if they donâ€™t marry.
Couples who wish to change their current alimony orders can file for modifications after 2013. But no one knows how judges will use the new law, especially in established alimony cases.
California journalistÂ Estelle Shanley-DuffÂ said her husband,Â John B. Duff, president emeritus of University of Massachusetts-Lowell, has paid $4,000-a-month alimony to his ex-wife for more than 30 years.
Mr. Duff, 80, now has advanced Alzheimerâ€™s disease and lives in a California facility. However, he is still required to pay his ex-wife $3,000 a month, and due to rising costs for his care, he has fallen behind in the payments.
â€œI think itâ€™s a great day for Massachusettsâ€ to reform its alimony law, she said. â€œI donâ€™t knowâ€ if the new law will impact our case, she said, â€œbut I do intend to go to court to see if we can get some relief.â€
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