New Massachusetts Alimony Law Aimed at Cohabitating Ex-Spouses
Until recently, a divorced spouse in Massachusetts could set up a new household with a significant other and continue to collect alimony as long as he or she did not remarry. The paying spouse had little recourse until the Alimony Reform Act took effect.
Starting March 1, 2012, the Alimony Reform Act fundamentally changed Massachusetts divorce law. Among the changes, the law now allows parties that are paying alimony to seek a modification or termination of payments after their former spouse moves in with a significant other.
New Rules for Alimony and Cohabitation
This new provision of Massachusetts divorce law requires the alimony-paying spouse to show that the spouse receiving alimony has "maintained a common household" with another person for at least three continuous months. A common household means that people cohabitate, or share a primary residence. To determine this, courts may consider factors such as:
· Statements the spouse made to other people about the relationship
· Whether the two individuals in the couple are financially dependent on each other, or whether one person in the relationship is financially dependent on the other
· The reputation in the community of the spouse and his or her significant other as a couple
A judge may suspend, reduce or terminate alimony if the paying spouse shows that his or her former spouse has created a common household with another person. If the relationship or the common household ends, a court may order alimony benefits to be reinstated, but reinstated benefits may not extend past the end date of the original order.
As with other aspects of alimony, suspending or terminating benefits under these circumstances is complex and may depend on individual circumstances. Divorced spouses who believe they may be able to reduce or eliminate their alimony obligations or who believe that their alimony payments are in danger of being altered should contact an experienced attorney for advice.
Cohabitation Provision One of Many Changes
The scenario of a spouse continuing to collect alimony while cohabitating with another person was one of many "horror stories" that advocates for alimony reform presented during the campaign for a new law.
A task force gathered to examine the issue ultimately recommended sweeping changes that received widespread support in the Massachusetts Legislature. In addition to allowing alimony to be altered when the receiving spouse is cohabitating with another person, the Alimony Reform Act eliminates lifetime alimony in most cases, provides specific time limits for spousal support and requires alimony to end when the paying spouse reaches retirement age.
If you or your ex is living with a significant other, it's important to determine exactly how the new law affects the alimony you pay or receive. An attorney at Law Group, P.C. can help you. With offices and meeting space throughout the Commonwealth, our lawyers appear in every family court and before every judge. We know family law in Massachusetts and stay current on changes that could affect our clients.