Major Changes in Alimony & Child Support Take Effect March 1, 2012

The long anticipated reform of Massachusetts alimony laws took effect on March 1, 2012 with the implementation of a major revision on M.G.L. chapter 208, section 36. That law now categorizes different types of alimony and sets limits on the duration of alimony based on the length of the marriage for the first time. Prior to this statutory standard each judge used their own standards in awarding alimony and setting limits based on their interpretation of the law. A major component of this law is to eliminate from consideration for alimony calculations any income used in calculating child support. Child support is based on a formula that does change from time to time but is based on the gross income of both parents and the number of children.  It appears that the effect of this provision will be to eliminate alimony for those individuals receiving child support, but it is unclear what effect this will have after child support ends, if the length of the marriage provided for a longer term of support. Also the impact on property division, which the court is empowered to alter from an equal split based on enumerated factors, is not clear at this time. It will take very careful crafting of agreements and monitoring of decisions by the courts to assure that all litigants are treated fairly going forward.