A huge step forward in the BBA’s multi-year effort to secure passage of essential alimony reform legislation in Massachusetts. . . On July 20th the House of Representatives voted unanimously (150-0) to pass H3617. Among other things, this measure will bring consistency in alimony orders throughout the Commonwealth, and put an end to lifetime alimony.
During the debate in the House, Representative John Fernandes acknowledged the BBA’s important role in pushing this bill to the front burner. The legislation will now move on to the Senate for a vote.
Specifics of Alimony Reform
The bill will establish a timeline for payments, granting payments based on the years of marriage. If someone is married five years or less then the person receiving alimony would get payment for half of the number of months of the marriage. For a 10 to 15-year marriage, judges would award payment for between 60 to 70 percent the number of months the couple was married. The spouse of a 15-year marriage would be entitled to payments for 80 percent of the number of months. It would still be up to a judge’s discretion on how many months of payments to award for any marriage longer than 20 years.
Background of Alimony Reform
The BBA’s work on alimony reform began several years ago, when the BBA and the MBA convened a joint task force to study the alimony issue and make recommendations for improvement. In 2010 the BBA endorsed the report of that joint task force, which was utilized in the drafting of “An Act to Reform and Improve Alimony.”
More recently, Chairs of the Judiciary Committee Representative Eugene O’Flaherty and Senator Cynthia Creem convened the Legislative Alimony Reform Task Force to bring all parties with an interest in alimony reform together in one room to collaborate on a single, compromise piece of legislation. The Task Force constituted one of the broadest groups of family law stakeholders possible, including Chief Justice Paula Carey of the Probate and Family Court in an advisory capacity, and representatives from the BBA, the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Women’s Bar Association, father’s rights groups and private family law practitioners. The BBA’s Family Law Co-Chair, Kelly Leighton, acted as the BBA’s liaison throughout the process.