Jen Benson, State Representative, 37th Middlesex District
House passes alimony reform legislation
Jen Benson speaking at event

June 21, 2011

BOSTON — State Representative Jen Benson today joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in unanimously passing legislation to reform guidelines for determining the form, amount and duration of alimony payments.

"This thoughtful piece of legislation was written in collaboration with all the parties involved in alimony," said Benson. "The result offers clear guidelines that will help parties live independently as soon as possible and I am glad that the House offered its unanimous support."

The bill creates four new categories for alimony: "general term alimony," "rehabilitative alimony," "reimbursement alimony," and "transitional alimony." Each is designed to give payors and recipients a clear understanding of how long alimony payments will be made or received in a given circumstance.

"General term alimony" calls for the periodic payment of support to an economically dependent spouse. The default form of alimony, "general term alimony" payments are based on the length of marriage, with the duration of alimony payments increasing with the length of the terminated marriage.

Under this legislation, "general term alimony" now encompasses short-term marriages (marriages of five years or less) and can be suspended, reduced or terminated if it can be shown that the recipient spouse has been living with another person continuously in a relationship similar to a marriage.

"Rehabilitative alimony" requires the periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is expected to become economically self-sufficient by a predicted time. "Rehabilitative alimony" is limited to five years, unless a court grants an extension based on compelling events. This type of alimony terminates upon the remarriage of the recipient spouse, occurrence of a specific future event, or death of either spouse.

"Reimbursement alimony" constitutes a periodic or one-time payment of support to a recipient spouse after a short-term marriage. This type of alimony is also designed for the purpose of paying the recipient spouse for a contribution - economic or otherwise - to the financial contribution of the payor, such as enabling the payor spouse to complete an education or job training.

Finally, "transitional alimony" is also a periodic or one-time payment of support to a recipient spouse after a short-term marriage. "Transitional alimony," however, is also designed for the purpose of transitioning the recipient to an adjusted lifestyle or location as a result of the terminated marriage. "Transitional alimony" must end no later than three years after the date of divorce.

While alimony is generally capped at between 30% and 35% of the difference between the two parties' gross incomes at the time the alimony order is issued, the bill sets forth numerous items to be considered by courts determining the form, amount and duration of alimony. The factors include length of marriage, age and health of the parties, income of both of the parties and employment and employability of both parties, among others.

As a result of this legislation, certain current alimony payors and recipients would be permitted to petition a court for a modification of their current alimony orders under the terms within this bill.

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