When Governor Deval Patrick signed Chapter 124 of the Acts of 2011 on September 25, 2011, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts effectively abolished most lifetime spousal support, thereby joining several other states where alimony payment laws have changed as payors argue they are struggling in the current economy.

The measure generally ends alimony either when the payor reaches retirement age or when the recipient has cohabitated with a romantic partner for 90 days. Further, the law also establishes a formula for alimony, based on the length of the marriage. For example, a 15-year marriage would generally yield alimony which would last no more than 10.5 years of marriage.

However, the law still allows judges to award indefinite alimony for long-term marriages (those lasting 20 or more years), and in the case of short marriages, judges can order “reimbursement alimony” in such situations as when one spouse put the other through school during the marriage.

The major impact of the Massachusetts law is to end the previously common practice of judges awarding alimony as a permanent entitlement; such practice is becoming increasingly rare practice across the U.S. Additionally, and for the first time, the law sets guidelines for determining the amount of alimony payments. Signed in September 2011, the changes took effect in March 2012, which allows people who are currently paying lifetime alimony to file for modifications starting in 2013.

This area of law is still evolving and there is very little applicable case law at this time. An experienced divorce lawyer can advise you as to how the new statute might affect your individual situation.