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Massachusetts law changes alimony payouts

When a new state law is passed, there are usually intended as well as unintended consequences. A relatively recent law has changed alimony, also sometimes called spousal maintenance or spousal support, in Massachusetts.

The new divorce legislation was signed into law last fall and went into effect on March 1, 2012. There are several intended consequences to the manner in which alimony is calculated. The unintended consequence according to a recent news source is that private investigators are suddenly busy chasing down divorced people suspected of cohabitation.

The new alimony law makes several key changes which have a phase-in period. The main changes appear to be these:

  • For marriages of five years or less, alimony will last no longer than half as long as the marriage.
  • For marriages of six to 10 years, there is an alimony cap of 60 percent of the length of the marriage.
  • So-called lifetime alimony is being replaced with reimbursement alimony, rehabilitative alimony and transitional alimony.

As a practical matter, alimony would end should one of the spouses move in or cohabitate with a new significant other or romantic partner. It is this last point that has apparently resulted in the employment of private investigators.

According to one private investigator, proving that an ex-spouse is living with a new significant other is not cheap. At $125 per hour it can take months of a few days per week to obtain evidence that may hold up in court. Evidence can include photographs, documentation and witness testimony.

Because this is new family law territory, it is unclear what sorts of evidence a family law judge may accept as proof of cohabitation.

Source: Boston Business Journal, "Massachusetts new divorce law causing an uptick in business for private investigators," Lisa Van Der Pool, April 16, 2012

Source: Boston Business Journal, "Alimony reform becomes law in Massachusetts," Sep. 27, 2011

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