When state governments begin to make big changes to their laws regarding alimony, it gets noticed in other states. Whether in Pennsylvania or other parts of the country, very few people are entirely satisfied with the way the spousal support system works. That is why reforms like those that recently passed in Massachusetts get so much attention. The new laws were signed by the governor earlier this week.
The law, slated to go into effect March 1, 2012 gives judges great latitude in determining alimony payments. Activists had gathered scores of stories of how alimony law had been unjust in their state. They cited one story of an 80-year-old man, suffering from advanced Alzheimer's, living in nursing home, who is still required to pay his ex-wife $3,000 per month. Due to the cost of his medical care he is in arrears on the alimony and has been ordered to appear in court. The man "can barely walk and has no cognitive ability to understand the legal situation," according to his present wife.
Activists are hopeful that this law will begin a trend in other states to end so-called "pay until death," alimony payments.
The new law instructs judges to take into account the length of the marriage, as well as the spouses' ages, income and employability. "Conduct during the marriage" may also be considered.
Pittsburgh divorce attorneys noted that the new law out-of-state law will give judges more power to put a firm time limit on how long alimony payments will last.
After signing the new law, the governor said it was "an important set of reforms to modernize and make more fair the alimony system."
The law passed both houses of the state legislature unanimously.
Source: Washington Times "Alimony reform in Massachusetts ends pay until death" Sept. 26, 2011