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Marriage, divorce and Massachusetts' Alimony Reform Act of 2011

Massachusetts recently passed the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 that, among other things, caps how long alimony payments must be made based on how long two people were married. It is a piece of legislation that has exposed a rift in the way people in our state view of marriage, divorce and alimony.

Proponents of the legislation say it reflects a modern view of alimony and brings a much-needed update to an idea that is largely a reflection of the past. Critics, however, allege that it disenfranchises stay-at-home mothers and women who were dependent on their husbands during their marriage and makes life are divorce much harder.

Before you can come to your own opinion about the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, it would be helpful to know a little about alimony itself.

Alimony, also called spousal support, is the term for payments made from one former spouse to another after the marriage has ended. Most often the ex-husband is the one who makes the payments to the ex-wife, but that is not always the case.

The idea behind alimony is that the spouses should have as close to the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage after they divorce. There is also the belief that a spouse who was dependent on the other should not be cast out immediately after the marriage and is entitled to money so he or she can obtain education or get back on his or her feet financially.

Now, some things about alimony have not changed. It is overwhelmingly women who receive alimony payments, for example. But our society has changed a lot on the past few decades. It is now more uncommon for a woman to not work outside the home than it is for her to be a stay-at-home mother.

Do you think the concept of alimony is outdated, or do you think it is an institution we need to keep around?

Source: Forbes, "Alimony Reforms Continue to Create More Uncertainty for Divorcing Women," Jeff Landers, Jan. 18, 2012

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