Governor Deval Patrick recently signed a bill to reform Massachusetts' regulations relating to alimony payments.
Under the old system, judges could award lifetime alimony payments regardless of how long a marriage lasted. Reform advocates said this placed an undue financial burden on many divorced individuals. Steve Hitner, president of the activist group Massachusetts Alimony Reform, told The New York Times that he had to file for bankruptcy after a court refused to reduce his $45,000 a year alimony payments.
The new law sets limits on alimony payment terms based on the length of the marriage, so that a short marriage of five years or less could result in alimony payments lasting only as long as half the term of the relationship. For marriages of 15 to 20 years, alimony payments could be sustained for up to 80 percent of the length of the relationship.
Under the new law, judges will also be able to end alimony payments if the payee moves in with a new partner, regardless of whether they are legally married.
Alimony modifications accounted for about a third of all family and probate court cases in Massachusetts in 2008, according to Massachusetts Alimony Reform.