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Troubles with Massachusetts's new alimony law

Alimony, also known as spousal support, was created in order to financially assist individuals after a divorce. The concept recognizes that one person may be worse off as a result of the divorce, and offers that person money, recognizing that they contributed to the marriage in ways that may not have been purely financial.

Massachusetts recently changed their alimony laws. They have essentially placed alimony on a scale. The amount an individual receives depends on a number of factors including the length of time that the marriage has lasted. This change was aimed at giving assistance to those who need it financially, while recognizing that women in particular have evolved in the employment arena and may no longer need the protection and alimony they once did.

Problems have surfaced because of this change in law. One of these problems questions judges consistency in application. On Massachusetts man claims that he has been ordered to pay $4,000 a month based on a launched program that ended up failing. The man is now in debt and unemployed while his ex-wife receives $3,100 a month from her pension, social security and garnished payments and $422 a month from a former husband's retirement plan.

In the past, alimony awards were present to help former wives, although either a husband or a wife may be awarded alimony. These women were viewed as less dependent. A woman who stayed at home taking care of her children found herself at a loss when a divorce occurred and she now had to enter the employment arena, unprepared for the experience.

Alimony has changed recently to reflect that women are attaining jobs and becoming more and more independent. Laws such as the reform in Massachusetts aim to reflect this change. It is, however, imperative that judges correctly interpret the new statues and award alimony based on the new guidelines in order to promote consistency and predictability.

When an alimony award does not seem right, the order may be disputed. Individuals facing alimony disputes may have a difficult time navigating the new Massachusetts's law. A family law professional may be able to help these individuals in order to protect their rights in family court.

Source: ABA Journal, "New Alimony Law in Massachusetts isn't 'hoped for panacea'," Debra Cassens Weiss, Oct. 25, 2013

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