The Massachusetts House of Representatives has given initial approval of legislation that would overhaul the state’s alimony system, according to the State House News Service.

Rep. Paul Donato, who presided over the House session in question, said the government body would likely hold a formal session next week to debate the proposed changes in the bill. Under the legislation, state law would lay out specific guidelines on the levels and duration of alimony payments to former spouses, the news service reports.

The bill, which currently has 133 co-sponsors from both parties, would establish a timeline for alimony payments, basing them on the duration of the marriage. For instance, in the case of a divorcing couple married for five years or less, the person receiving alimony would get payment for half the number of months of the union. For a 10- to 15-year marriage, the source reports judges would award payment for between 60 to 70 percent of the number of months a couple was married. It would be up to a judge’s discretion to determine how much alimony is due for a marriage surpassing 20 years.

There were 21,232 divorce filings in Massachusetts in 2009, according to Massachusetts Alimony Reform, resulting in 16,289 cases of alimony modification. The website stated that alimony modifications accounted for almost 30 percent of all Massachusetts Family and Probate Court cases in 2008.

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