Last autumn, Governor Patrick signed a bill into law which fundamentally changed the ways in which alimony is calculated in Massachusetts. While the new law has not received an extraordinary amount of press, this sweeping reform is certainly worthy of such coverage.

The new law was championed by the “2nd Wives Club,” an offshoot of the organization “Mass Alimony Reform.” The group’s primary concern stemmed from the reality that previous state law was requiring certain women to contribute portions of their paychecks to the previous spouses of their current married partners.

The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 modified the formula that courts must apply when calculating alimony payments for certain couples. The new calculations take into account the length of marriages which last for less than 10 years. In addition, the law mandates that payments cease if the partner who receives the funds moves in with a romantic partner or reaches the age of retirement.

Under ordinary circumstances, marriages lasting fewer than five years will support alimony payments for no longer than half the marriage’s length. Alimony payments will be ordered for no longer than 60 percent of the length of marriages lasting six to ten years.

Payments can also be limited due to various factors including earning capacity and certain “rehabilitative” thresholds. However, it is important to note that judges retain discretion in extraordinary circumstances. The courts will also maintain the right to grant transitional and reimbursement alimony in certain situations.

For spouses who are divorcing in Massachusetts after fewer than 10 years of marriage, the new law will affect you. Please consult an experienced family law attorney with any questions or concerns you may have.

Source: “Massachusetts Alimony Law Limits Payment to Ex-Spouses,” ABC News, 9/27/11