New Massachusetts SJC Cases RE: Alimony

QUARE:   WILL AN ALIMONY ORDER CONTAINED IN A DIVORCE JUDGMENT ENTERED PRIOR TO THE ENACTMENT DATE IN 2012 OF THE ALIMONY REFORM ACT, IN AND OF ITSELF, BE A SUFFICIENT REASON TO TERMINATE THAT ALIMONY ORDER?

For those of you who have been reading my articles describing the New Alimony Reform Act of 2011, the year 2015 is a significant one during which many modification actions are anticipated to be filed in the probate courts seeking to end spousal support based upon the staggered scheduled described in that Act.  Today three important decisions issued from the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts which provides some response to that very question.

CHESTER CHIN  v. EDITH E. MERRIOT, SJC-11715

JOSEPH W. DOKTOR  v. DOKTOR,  SJC-11727

GEORGE J. RODMAN   v. ROBERTA RODMAN, SJC- 11726

In brief, these three cases all dealt with the issue of the retroactive application of the Alimony Reform Act to a judgment for divorce that was issued by the court prior to the Alimony Act’s enactment.   The short answer, if there can ever be one, is that if the Plaintiff who is filing a complaint for modification is relying exclusively on the new statute to obtain an order to stop paying alimony, i.e., having reached the age of full benefit eligibility under Social Security, the complaint for modification will in all likelihood be dismissed.  The SJC has determined that the Alimony Reform Act will be applied prospectively and not retroactively.

In essence, what does this mean? It means that if you are seeking to end alimony before the new law went into effect, you are relegated to the law that existed for modification; that law constituted the need for Plaintiff to prove that a material change of circumstances has occurred to warrant a modification to end or reduce alimony.

What does this mean to you who pay or to you who receive?  It means that you need to consult with your attorney and not count the “chickens before they’re hatched”.  I will have more to say about these cases in later articles, but would be happy to meet with you to discuss your specific case.

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