Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Provides Framework & Guidance for Applying Presumptive Alimony Durational Limits and Deviation Standards.
The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 establishes presumptive time limitation schedules for the payment of alimony based upon the time period in which the parties were married for marriages up to twenty years. The presumptive durational limits in the Alimony Reform Act apply retroactively to alimony awards that pre-date the Act. Divorced spouses who pay alimony may now file a complaint for modification with the appropriate probate and family court, seeking to terminate general term alimony once the durational limits have been met. Given the presumptive time limits on general term alimony, existing alimony orders which exceed the time limitations set forth in the statute must be terminated without a showing of additional material change in circumstances by the moving party, unless the judge finds that a deviation is warranted in the interest of justice. Once the durational limits have been met, the recipient spouse bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that a deviation beyond the presumptive termination date set by Alimony Reform Act is required in the interests of justice. In the recent case of George v. George, 476 Mass 65 (2016), the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts took the opportunity to set forth guidelines as to how a probate court judge should apply the interest of justice standard set out in the Alimony Reform Act. The court opined that in order to deviate from the presumptive limits, the judge hearing the case must find that the deviation is necessary by applying the factors