Private eyes get involved in Massachusetts alimony cases

For Massachusetts residents who are receiving alimony checks, it may be a good idea to look around your surroundings a little bit closer. Someone may be watching you. Interestingly enough, your behavior could have an impact on the status of the alimony payments you currently receive.

In the past, alimony payments could be stopped when the ex-spouse who received payments was remarried. However, with shifting societal attitudes toward marriage and relationships, many unmarried couples live with each other and some couples never intend to get married. This, in turn, could cause problems for ex-spouses who are ordered to pay alimony to their former spouses who may be living with another partner without the intent to marry.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill into law that included provision that says that if the former spouse who is receiving alimony is proved to be living with another adult, a family court judge has the option to decrease, suspend or end alimony payments.

However, when the governor signed this bill in late 2011, he probably had no idea that the new law would create a boom for private investigators. Because of the rules, those who believe their alimony payments are unfair have the ability to hire a private investigator to determine their former spouse’s relationship status.

At the moment, there is a lot of discussion as to whether or not these practices are ethical. Yet there is currently nothing that makes the use of private investigators in alimony disputes illegal, so courts generally allow the evidence to be admissible in court.

For those divorced couples who have a provision for alimony in their settlement, it is important to make sure that the monthly payments accurately reflect the needs and circumstances of both parties. In the case that a modification in payments appears to be in order, it may be helpful to try to negotiate cordially with your ex-spouse and legal representatives to prevent a lengthy dispute.

Source: Boston Business Journal, “Massachusetts new divorce law causing an uptick in business for private investigators,” Lisa Van Der Pool, April 16, 2012

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