Massachusetts divorce lawyer Jason V. Owens provides an update on a Massachusetts bill that would revise the Alimony Reform Act to expand its application to all Massachusetts divorce cases.
In March, we blogged about Bill H.4034, “An Act reforming alimony in the Commonwealth”, a bill intended to update the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act (ARA) to make the Act’s provisions applicable to all Massachusetts alimony orders, including pre-2012 orders. The bill was a direct response to three controversial opinions entered by the the Supreme Judicial Court in 2015, in which the SJC held that the 2011 Alimony Reform Act – which placed limits on the alimony orders in Massachusetts – only fully applied alimony orders entered after March 1, 2012. The proposed bill addressed the SJC decisions by making the Act effective for all Massachusetts alimony orders, including those arising out of pre-2012 divorces.
In April, we updated the blog, noting revisions to the bill’s language as well as noting the bill’s progress to the House Steering, Policy and Scheduling Committee – an important step in the legislative process. The revisions also included a new bill number: Bill H.4110, An Act reforming alimony in the Commonwealth. The new bill has been dubbed the “Alimony Re-Reform Act” (ARRA) by its proponents.
We can now report that the ARRA continues its steady march towards a vote before the Massachusetts House. On May 10, 2016, the bill was sent to be placed on the House calendar, a critical step that confirms that the ARRA has successfully passed the House Committee on Bill’s review of the bill’s language for legality, constitutionality and the duplication or contradiction of existing Massachusetts law.
The next step for the ARRA will be a hearing before the full House, when it will be subject to debate, motions and amendments. The House will then vote on whether to pass the bill. Assuming full passage in the House, the bill will progress to the Senate, where it must survive an additional three readings in the Senate, as well as possible amendments that would require a return to the House for a “concurrence vote”, before finally being sent to Governor Baker for his signature and full passage.
How long this process may take is anyone’s guess. Governor Baker recently indicated that he expects July will be a busy session on Beacon Hill. With the ARRA already passing muster in the House, the bill could move smoothly through the Senate for full passage before the legislative session ends – and summer recess begins – at the end of July. It the bill does not pass before the summer recess, however, its progress will be significantly slowed, as the next legislative session – will which also include a batch of new lawmakers – does not start until January 1, 2017.
If you hear any tips about the bill’s progress, let us know. Check back frequently, as we will post what we hear as spring turns to summer.
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About the Author: Jason V. Owens is a Massachusetts divorce lawyer and Massachusetts family law attorney for Lynch & Owens, located in Hingham, Massachusetts.