Alimony Reform Update: The Case of Massachusetts

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Alimony on Monday, February 29, 2016.

Four years after Massachusetts passed alimony reform, a corrective alimony bill was filed to address three Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rulings which limited the law.

The Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of 2011 went into effect on March 1, 2012. The new law limited when alimony can be paid, added cohabitation language, an end date for alimony – such as retirement and cohabitation – and created new types of alimony.

However, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, in three 2015 decisions, held that the retirement provisions only apply prospectively, they did not apply retroactively, and that cohabitation was not a material change of circumstances that warrants modification of alimony.

I’ve been discussing legislative changes in Florida for a while. As the Legislature is in session, they are debating HB 0455, a bill relating to alimony.

Similar to Massachusetts’ attempt at alimony reform, Florida’s alimony reform bill will also involve retirement and cohabitation provisions. For instance, it will:

– Provide that a payor’s retirement after reaching the retirement age for social security or the obligor’s profession, constitutes a substantial change in circumstances for purposes of modifying or terminating an alimony award.

– Revise the criteria to determine cohabitation for purposes of modifying or terminating an alimony award

– Create a rebuttable presumption that modification or termination of an alimony award is retroactive to the date of the petition for relief.

In addition, the HB 0455 will:

– Provide factors to assist a court in awarding temporary alimony during dissolution proceedings.

– Repeal the current categorization of post-dissolution alimony awards as bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent and creates one form of post-dissolution alimony.

– Establish a formula to determine a presumptive range for the amount and duration of the award, effectively ending permanent alimony.

– Provide factors to assist a court in determining a post-dissolution alimony award within the presumptive range.

– Authorize a court to deviate from the presumptive range if the resulting alimony award would be inappropriate or inequitable.

If the bill becomes law, it will be effective October 1, 2016. The Florida legislative session ends March 11th. Until then, there are a lot of bills pending which will significantly impact family law in Florida.

The Fox News Boston article and video are here.