In September, 2011 the Massachusetts enacted into Law the Alimony Reform Act of 2011. This law changed completely the law of alimony in the state. It created presumptive maximum lengths of time for alimony to be received, guidelines to determine the amount of alimony, four categories of alimony and other changes. Attorneys generally advise that there are many areas of this new law that are difficult to interpret without appellate court decisions. We now have the benefit of the first case to interpret the new law.
In the case of Holmes v. Holmes, SJC-11538 (April 2, 2014) the court addressed the question of when does general alimony start for purposes of the presumptive maximum length of time. The question may be restated as does temporary alimony count towards the maximum length of time for receiving general alimony. The court’s answer was that temporary alimony does not count towards general alimony.
In the Holmes case, the wife had received temporary alimony for over two years during the pendency of the divorce. Since the couple had been married for under twenty years, the court set a termination date for alimony payments. This date did not take into account the money paid as temporary alimony during the divorce. The court did state that if the recipient of alimony had delayed the divorce then the court should consider a portion of the pre-judgment period towards the presumptive maximum limit. However, the two years of temporary alimony in the Holmes case did not seem so long that the Judge should consider a different outcome.
The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 changed alimony from a law that favored women to a law that favored men. The recent decision of the Supreme Judicial Court is a small step swinging the law back towards women. Alimony in Massachusetts remains a complicated subject. Anybody getting divorced in Massachusetts with questions about alimony should consult an experienced divorce attorney to understand their rights.