Til Death Us Do Part…..

Hi there;

Right now one of the more interesting discussions in matrimonial law in Massachusetts is how long should alimony last.  Currently, judges lack the authority to terminate alimony with any finality, due in part to the fact that unless there is an agreement between the parties that the court won’t be able to change the alimony provisions, any judgment regarding alimony is not necessarily final and often must be rather open-ended (or as we in the trade describe it alimony ends at death or the recipient’s remarriage).

This has resulted in a lot of anomalous situations, the most common of which has to do with retirement.  As a result, there is a move afoot to eliminate alimony upon the retirement of the payor spouse.  There is currently a case pending before the SJC which will determine how this goes. Boston Magazine had an interesting article on this recently.  However, as with so much in family law, there can be circumstances that require a different result, as well as the application of judicial discretion.  David Cherny, another prominent divorce attorney in Boston, had an interesting comment on Fox News in this regard.

As with so much else in divorce, I think the question of alimony should be decided on a case by case basis.   Formulas tend to miss the realities and nuances of people’s lives and a divorce decision should, if possible, honor that.





  1. Just read your blog on the article in Boston Mgazine. Reading between the lines it sounds like you don’t support alimony reform. If judges had better guidelines, especially with regard to a formula for amount paid and duration, the system would be a lot better off. Why should anyone be entitled to a life equal to the one they lead prior to divorce without any obligation to work for life. As a divorced spouse, no one guarantees me a lifestyle, especially if I lose my job.

  2. Hi there,
    Thank you for your comment, I am not averse to revising the alimony laws to give judges more authority surrounding duration of alimony as well as amount, but I am averse to a formulaic approach as I have seen many circumstances in the child support guidelines where the formula results in an unfair result.

  3. I agree with Nancy, formulaic approaches invariably lead to unfair results; there are too many variables in each situation. I myself am facing a alimony/semi-retirement issue where after 35 years of marriage, having been a stay-at-home mother and having supported a spouse’s lucrative career for all those years am facing a situation where an ex who is remarried with a second income in the family is working a part-time, extremely reduced income level and feels that he can pay a percentage of whatever he makes, this after having made only four years of alimony payments for a 35 year marriage. Where is the justice in this?

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