House proposes amendment to Mass. alimony reform

Two Republican members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives plan to file an amendment to the state’s alimony reform bill that would allow judges to halt or reduce payments in cases already settled under current law, according to the State House News Service.

The legislation would only affect merged cases, which are alimony cases the court retains jurisdiction over indefinitely. In those cases, judges have the authority to revise alimony payments even years after a divorce is finalized. Parties can also opt for agreeing to the terms of their divorce as final, known as “survives with independent legal significance,” which prevents judges from modifying their decisions at a later date.

The amendment, set to be submitted by Representatives Sheila Harrington of Groton and Daniel Winslow of Norfolk, would allow state courts to adjust or stop payments in all alimony cases.

Known as the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of 2011, the overall bill would alter how alimony payments are determined by Bay State authorities and place a cap on payments based on the duration of a marriage. The bill received initial approval from the House earlier this month.

The Boston Business Journal reports that if passed, the alimony reform bill would likely lower the cost of divorce proceedings and make it easier for divorce attorneys to advice their clients in those cases.