At long last, a sweeping alimony reform bill, passed by both houses of the Massachusetts state legislature, has been sent to the Governor's Desk, it was reported on Monday. Governor Patrick has 10 days to sign it, and there is nobody saying that he won't. In fact, I just heard from a reliable source that the Governor will sign it on this coming Monday.
What started long ago as an impassioned struggle has in recent years gathered strength as Massachusetts Alimony Reform, a new organization directed by Steve Hitner, came into being. The Massachusetts Alimony Reform organization came onto the scene with a tenacity, dedication, and persuasiveness that caused many, including opinion makers in the media and in politics, to wake up and pay attention.
A House bill which called for real reform was countered by a Senate bill that was, by contrast, a slight tinkering with the law that would not really have changed or helped much. Fortunately, as support for real reform continued to grow, and political support became apparent, it came to pass that legislators, lawyers, and bar associations all moved in the direction of supporting real reform. Now, with the passage of the final version of the legislation by both houses, real reform has prevailed; in other words, the final version is much closer to the original House bill than to the Senate bill, and it will bring about very substantial, extensive reform. Thus an alimony reform movement which once had only limited vocal support from a handful of family law litigants, legislators and attorneys, eventually gained very broad support - indeed support of seemingly everyone, including many lawyers and bar associations that had previously ignored, dismissed, minimized, or opposed any serious alimony reform efforts.
With the passage of this alimony reform legislation, we will see the law of alimony in Massachusetts at last reflect the social and economic realities of our time. I expect alimony determinations to be much more sensible and predictable, and much fairer as a result, as previously lengthy or even lifelong awards of alimony, many of which were out of all proportion to the length of the preceding marriages or the equities of their respective cases, will become a thing of the past. Although I have a few reservations about one or two provisions of the bill, overall I am very pleased with the legislation and I have no doubt the new law will be a huge improvement over the current law.
I will have more thoughts to express soon. Meanwhile we all await the official word that the Governor has signed this bill. For a brief description of the bill, see Alimony Reform Heads to Governor's Desk, Monday's Boston Business Journal article on this.
Previous Posts on Massachusetts Alimony Reform:
ALIMONY REFORM AND THE BUSINESS OF DIVORCE
OF TWO ALIMONY REFORM BILLS, HOUSE BILL IS FAR BETTER
"TILL DEATH DO US PAY" - MORE ON THE NEED FOR ALIMONY REFORM
EMILY ROONEY DISCUSSES ALIMONY REFORM
MASSACHUSETTS ALIMONY: TIME FOR REFORM?
For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.