There has been a good deal of publicity about the new Massachusetts alimony law which took effect on March 1, 2012. There has also been a fair amount of disappointment when people learn that the new law prevents most people from filing for a modification of their alimony based upon the new law until 2013, and in some instances not until 2015! But there is no need to wait until then. Here’s why:
If your alimony payment is likely to terminate as a result of the new law, there is no reason you can’t start informal negotiations now. Most cases are resolved without litigation and it may be that since the new law is relatively clear about termination of alimony, that you can obtain a lump sum payment now(if you receive alimony) or make a one time payment now(if you pay alimony) and stop writing checks forever. If you are receiving alimony, you should be able to negotiate a good settlement by offering to terminate alimony now in return for a lump sum. If you have a potential defense to termination of alimony (called a “deviation” under the new law) such as for ill health, disability, etc, you might be able to negotiate an even better settlement because the payor of alimony would have to consider the chance that if he filed for a modification, the alimony payment would not be terminated, due to the existence of grounds for a deviation. As a payor of alimony, you might be able to negotiate a discount, if you offer to pay the alimony in advance in a lump sum. You might even want to negotiate an extension of your alimony for a couple of years, in return for a smaller payment. In some cases, it might be a better deal to transfer some part of your IRA to your spouse, in return for a termination of alimony. For some people, making a life insurance policy available to your ex spouse might be more attractive than alimony, and you might be able to save your self some money now, in return for providing this benefit.The point here is that the new alimony law is an opportunity to revisit alimony in light of the new law and there is no reason not to start right away.