September 2011 Newsletter

Alimony Statute 



On Sept. 26, 2011, Governor Deval L. Patrick signed into law the "Alimony Reform Act of 2011", which was unanimously passed this summer by the Massachusetts House and Senate.  This law represents significant changes in the area of alimony. The law provides for term limits for the duration of alimony, as well as a formula for determining the amount of alimony. The new law states alimony should be between 30% and 35% of the difference in the gross incomes of the parties.


The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 goes into effect March 1, 2012. Its official reference will be M.G.L. 208 sections 48-55. As of March 1, 2012 alimony will no longer be addressed under section 34. The new law addresses and changes alimony practices that have long been criticized for imposing traditional post-marital economic structures on current divorce settlements, without consideration for the length of the marriage. Under the new legislation, alimony is defined as "the payment of support from a spouse, who has the ability to pay, to a spouse in need of support for a reasonable length of time." Upon enactment, Massachusetts probate courts will recognize four (4) distinct forms of alimony: rehabilitative; reimbursement; transitional; and general term. The October newsletter article will address and discuss rehabilitative, reimbursement, and transitional alimony. November's newsletter will address the general term or "traditional" alimony. Note that general term alimony will end upon the remarriage of the recipient, or the death of either spouse. Specific term limits are established for marriages of twenty years or less. The new law also establishes that the length of the marriage will be determined as the period from the date of the marriage to the date of service of the complaint for divorce. This is a change from current law, whereby a marriage terminates at the time an agreement is allowed and/or the date of trial.

Courts Within the Commonwealth Respond to Budget and Time Restraints


Throughout the past few years, all court budgets within the Commonwealth have been drastically reduced. That has caused the elimination of numerous positions in every court, and numerous proposals to close several district courts around in the state. The probate courts have been drastically affected by these cuts. The reduction in personnel translates into fewer people doing all the work such as docketing, scheduling, assignment of cases, etc., and not enough people to address the public's questions either on the telephone and/or at the Registry counters. In an effort to respond to these issues, as of September 19, 2011, the probate courts across the Commonwealth have been closing at 3:00 PM every day. (For the official notice, please click here.)  Emergencies and restraining orders will continue to be addressed during this time. Note that many other courts, including the district courts, are adopting similar local rules. For further information, please refer to the trial court website and/or the specific website for any court.


New Monthly Feature:

Melaney's Corner


Melaney Hodge has been a legal intern with this office since summer 2010, returning for summer 2011. Melaney is a third year law student at New England Law, Attorney Ryan's alma mater. Melaney works closely with Attorney Ryan, and her assistants, Paula and Rachel, on all aspects of each case. She has participated in numerous court appearances, mediation, four-way meetings, and trial preparation. Melaney will be contributing articles based on her law school experiences, and her thoughts and observations related to family law. Melaney's article "Thoughts From a Future Legal Eagle" in July 2010, was well received, so we thought we would make it a regular feature. If you have not met Melaney, she is with us on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Melaney's Corner 

 Melaney Hodge

In my family law class, we are currently discussing the social change marriage has undergone since the 1920s. In that time period, the typical marriage consisted of a husband as the sole wage earner and head of household, while the wife performed all household duties. Even beyond the workplace, socially men and women were separated into separate spheres. Women discussed children, while men dominated the political and social conversation. Even when married, the genders were separated. Obviously, marriage is extremely different today. As the cost of living has increased, most families require a dual income. It is now socially acceptable for the wife to be the primary wage earner, while the husband stays at home.


After discussing the changes, my professor asked us which marriage we would prefer. Personally, I could not think of any positives to the 1920s marriage. Besides the obvious negatives such as the wife's inequality, students mentioned this marriage being very lonely. The union of marriage is meant to bond the couple, yet domestically and socially, husband and wife were secluded from one another. One student did prefer the 1920s marriage because the social roles of the genders were defined. Chivalry was required; now a man is concerned that by opening a door for a woman he is showing his superiority. While I can understand and appreciate the desire for designated roles, I think the social changes to marriage were necessary. As society evolves, marriage must also. While the current structure of the family may resemble the 1920s, society seems willing to embrace individual spouses who break the norms. For all the flaws in modern marriage, I think we have definitely seen some major improvements since the 1920s, and I cannot wait to see what's in store for us.

Issue: 26

scales of justice

In This Issue
New Alimony Law Signed by Governor Deval Patrick
Courts Within the Commonwealth Respond to Budget and Time Restraints
New Monthly Feature
Melaney's Corner
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If anyone has a topic that would be of general interest, please do not hesitate to contact the office and let us know what items would be of general interest to the readers of this newsletter.
Susan C. Ryan, Esq.
Law Office of Susan Castleton Ryan, PC
(781) 982-8850

This newsletter is designed to keep you up-to-date with changes in the law.  For help with these or any other legal issues, please call our firm today.
The information in this newsletter is intended solely for your information .  It does not constitute legal advice, and it should not be relied on without a discussion of your specific situation with an attorney.