With the Alimony Reform Act in Massachusetts, can alimony which was awarded based on disability be terminated?

Asked over 1 year ago - Gardner, MA

My boyfriend was awarded alimony in his divorce 4 years ago. He was, and still is, on disability due to mental health issues. We are looking into sharing a 2 bedroom apartment as neither of us can afford to maintain our current residences alone. If we do, could his ex-wife petition to have his alimony terminated. as it was awarded based on his disability?

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Philip W. Mason


    Contributor Level 18


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Alimony is not based on disability. It is based on an analysis of the marriage applying the numerous considerations outlined in MGL 208 § 34, and interpreted with substantial discretion by the judge. Essentially, and this is a simplification, an alimony award is based on the length of the marriage coupled with the established need of the recipient party and the ability to pay of the payer party.
    I think your larger concern is that under the new alimony law cohabitation is considered to have an impact on the recipient party’s needs, just as remarriage has been viewed in the past, and it can now be used as the basis for a modification action. Cohabitation, however, has not yet been well defined by cases coming before the court, but a few things seem to be clear – cohabitation must be for a period of 3 months or more and it is more than a mere roommate relationship. The party move for modification must show that cohabitation included an economically integrated relationship. A cohabitating couple would probably share the same address for billing and governmental purposed, they would have joint accounts and hold other property jointly, they would share a common bedroom. So while cohabitation could certainly be used as the basis for a Complaint for Modification, it may be more difficult to prove then one would think at first impression.
    If you plan on moving in together and you are concerned about the possible impact your decision may have on your boyfriend’s alimony award, you should consult with an attorney.

    This is not legal advice and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should speak to an... more
  2. Anton R. Reinert

    Contributor Level 13

    Answered . I agree with Attorney Mason's response. The one thing I would add is that you should consider which judge is assigned to your boyfriend's case. There is an exception to the alimony termination language in the statute that leaves discretion to the judge. Some judges are beginning to permit continuation of alimony in some cases where alimony would normally be terminated. I suggest that you speak with a qualified family law attorney to give you further guidance.

    Advice provided is of a general nature to provide guidance. Divorce law is state specific. One should always... more
  3. Henry Lebensbaum

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . One would have to read the judgment or final court ord.

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