The New Alimony Laws In MA — And Maybe In FL, NJ, CT, And OR?

“So you’re a small lady who wrote a book that started this good war?” Abraham Lincoln is pronounced to have asked Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1849, was an present bestseller and dramatized a horrors of labour for all to see, years before a fighting began.

Fast-forward to suburban Boston, 2006. A operative male with a duplicate and duplicate store, Steve Hitner, is disorder after a bruising tale in a Cambridge family court. Ordered to compensate $865 a week in permanent lifetime subsistence in 1999, when his business crashed after 9/11, he returned to justice to ask for a reduction, as a law allowed.

Because he was self-employed, his documented financial harm was think — and eventually rejected, even yet he came to justice with an auditor and his taxation earnings — and he’d already left bankrupt. The decider disallowed a rebate and systematic his new mother to work a second pursuit to assistance him compensate his alimony. After Hitner pleaded that he had large credit label debt, a decider said, “When we run out of credit, I’ll put we in jail.”

Was this Steve Hitner’s America? In his despair, he combined an organization, Mass Alimony Reform (MAR) and put adult a website. “The many startling thing,” he says, “is that women contacted me. They were profitable subsistence to their husbands’ ex-wives.” Out of that was innate an appendage to MAR: The 2nd Wives Club. It’s been common in Massachusetts that when subsistence payers remarry, their new spouses’ income is enclosed in a pot from that subsistence can be taken in a alteration — mostly forcing operative women to assistance support women who possibly work themselves or who are underneath no requirement to work, ever.

All of that and some-more altered on Mar 1, when a state’s new subsistence laws, final revised in 1975, went into effect. It’s widely accepted among lawmakers and lawyers that yet Steve Hitner’s persistence and a domestic poke of Mass Alimony Reform, remodel would not have happened.

Hitner’s life has altered too: Because of his bargain of a new law — he was on a Judiciary Committee Task Force that rewrote it — he’s consulting with people removing divorced, before they enter a lawyer’s lair. He wants to assistance folks equivocate finale adult where he did.

His success in a domestic locus has spawned grassroots organizations opposite a country, in states where subsistence laws, in whole or in part, resemble Massachusetts’ — Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Oregon, to name a few.

The new Massachusetts law — and those due in other states — does not do divided with alimony. To a contrary, it’s awarded some-more like child support, with discipline formed on a length of a matrimony and a income of a parties. And there is room for exceptions and legal discretion. But a simple thought is that people need to know what they’ll be removing or what they’ll have to pay; they need predictability and a ability to settle out of court. Payers need a genuine right to retire and finish payments, and those who cohabitate need to pierce on with their lives, reduction lifetime alimony.

Alimony originated when women had no mercantile power, divorce was uncommon, and cohabiting was shameful — and those days are prolonged gone. But laws in many states have not altered with a times, in partial given lawyers have a stranglehold on a complement — and they distinction from open-ended laws and a ability to beget conflict, and hence litigation.

Other attorneys take a broader view. When we asked his opinion on a reformed law, New York’s “Dean of Divorce” Raoul Felder told me, “On a whole, a renovate of a law is a good thing, and all divorce laws should be overhauled intermittently to see if they keep gait with society’s progress.”

Florida’s laws are steeped in a past — yet maybe not for long. The House only upheld a new law by 83 to 30, and a Senate is expected to opinion on it soon. Florida Alimony Reform (FAR), a public, a media, and many lawyers and even judges know a kinds of abuses that take place when there are no boundary in a volume or generation of alimony. One Tampa man, who is 51 and suffers from throat cancer, was systematic to compensate 85 percent of his income to his ex-wife — and has been in justice for years perplexing to remove a damage.

Says FAR’s co-director, Alan Frisher, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, “Legislators are listening to a fear stories. For a many part, they know that permanent subsistence as a default needs to end.”

But a Florida Bar Association’s Family Law Section, that has had a complicated palm in rewriting a bills being considered, doesn’t agree. The Bar recently posted a petition on their website, hostile each aspect of reform. Tales of foreclosure, bankruptcy, subsistence payers with Alzheimer’s profitable until they die — these are mostly met with skepticism, dismissal, or some chronicle of: “This isn’t a whole story. Maybe they went to justice yet a lawyer.” Often payers do go to justice yet lawyers, given they can’t means them, yet a laws are so lopsided toward permanent subsistence that even tip lawyers can’t get service for their clients.

Many family lawyers in New Jersey review from a same script. In a state scandalous for a prehistoric subsistence laws and for judges who exclude to reduce payments even when people have mislaid their jobs, legislators are deliberation a check that would assent modifications in altered circumstances, and one that would settle a elect to refurbish a law. “We contingency be doing something right,” says Rutgers highbrow Tom Leustek, who runs New Jersey Alimony Reform, “because legislators are listening to a stories, and lawyers are perplexing to repudiate them.”

Connecticut’s subsistence laws are underneath scrutiny, too. While judges there can sequence short-term or singular tenure alimony, they are giveaway to sequence support for any volume or any length of time. Stamford Attorney Victor Cavallo, whose website plainly declares that he fights for a rights of fathers and husbands “which are mostly overlooked in a midst of family law controversies,” told me in an email that some facilities of a new Massachusetts law would be useful in Connecticut, including, during a minimum, discipline for generation and stop of alimony, and noticing “that subsistence can be awarded as financial reconstruction rather than means as a asset during a payer’s expense.”

At a other finish of a spectrum, remarkable Greenwich counsel Wayne Effron, whose clients embody many wives of rich Wall Street brokers, had a opposite take on a Massachusetts bill. “This law is a response to a open that is increasingly rejecting a use of lawyers in divorce cases. It lends some predictability to a outcome and helps those who paint themselves improved know a parameters for settling their divorce. The problem is that a financially disadvantaged spouse, mostly a wife, is a one who gets harm by this legislation. There is now a roof on what she can wish to grasp from a divorce. Moreover, given many divorce cases are settled, she has mislaid negotiate energy in a negotiations. A father in a fifteen-year matrimony knows he can’t be done to compensate lifetime subsistence if a box goes to court. Therefore because should he ‘give’ his mother a house? … Like many divorce ‘reforms’ these days, this one favors a associate with a income and a earning power,” he wrote in an e-mail to me.

Mr. Effron creates a clever point: In states where permanent subsistence is common, a target has a top hand. S/he is entitled to be upheld in a “lifestyle of a marriage,” yet it all too mostly means that a payer’s lifestyle is that of a struggling connoisseur student.

In Massachusetts, lawmakers and lawyers have only embarked on a devise that will tip a beam in a other instruction — many believe, in a instruction of integrity for both parties, in a instruction of how we competence best live, adore and divorce in a 21st century.

Elizabeth Benedict is a writer and publisher who wrote an op-ed in a Boston Globe in 2008 that lighted a subsistence remodel transformation in Massachusetts.


Books by this author


This Blogger’s Books from



Mentors, Muses  Monsters: 30 Writers on a People Who Changed Their Lives (Excelsior Editions)

The Joy of Writing Sex: A Guide for Fiction Writers