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Could the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act Affect Your Existing Alimony Order?

Spouses who divorce in Massachusetts courts face dramatically different alimony laws than in previous decades. Starting March 1, 2012, the threat - or promise - of lifelong alimony was eliminated in most cases. The Alimony Reform Act creates time limits for spousal support based on the length of the marriage. Alimony may also end when the paying spouse retires or when the receiving spouse remarries or moves in with a significant other.

The Reform Act provides clear rules for time limits on alimony when spouses are beginning the divorce process. But what if you are already paying or receiving alimony?

The Alimony Reform Act does not automatically change existing alimony orders, but spouses with such orders may be able to seek an alimony modification. In general, many types of family law court orders may be modified when a material change of circumstances affects one or more of the parties to the court order. Under the new legislation, alimony may be modified in certain circumstances.

Modifying Alimony Under the New Law

The Alimony Reform Act provides specific time limits for alimony that depend on the length of a marriage. Former spouses who are paying alimony under court orders that exceed those time limits may be able to file for a modification after a certain date.

A paying spouse who was married:

•· Five or fewer years may file for an alimony modification starting March 1, 2013

•· Between five and 10 years may file for modification starting March 1, 2014

•· Between 10 and 15 years may file for modification starting March 1, 2015

•· Between 15 and 20 years may file for modification starting Sept. 1, 2015

A spouse may seek a modification for other reasons. For example, the new law requires alimony to end when the paying spouse reaches retirement age. A paying spouse who will reach retirement age by March 1, 2015, may file for a modification beginning March 1, 2013.

Alimony Still Complicated

Even though Massachusetts' new alimony laws provide specific guidelines for modifications, alimony remains a complex legal issue. Depending on the reason for modifying alimony, your case may involve varied requirements for showing a material change of circumstances. An experienced lawyer can provide you with advice based on your individual situation.

At the Law Group, P.C., our attorneys are highly knowledgeable about the changed Massachusetts alimony laws. Because we appear in each family court in the Commonwealth, we understand the subtle differences from court to court and judge to judge in how the law is applied. This knowledge, combined with our willingness to fight hard for each client, can give our clients an advantage when dealing with spousal support issues affected by the new law.

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