Massachusetts divorce lawyer Jason V. Owens reports on the growing list of potential co-sponsors for H 4427 in the state senate.
In June, the Alimony Re-Reform Bill (ARRA), passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives in a unanimous, 156-0 vote. Momentum now appears to be gathering for a similar result in the state Senate, where a growing group of bipartisan senators have indicated support for House Bill 4427 in recent weeks. According to Stephen Hitner, President of Massachusetts Alimony Reform, the bipartisan list of senators who are supporting H 4427 has grown to include leaders from both sides of the aisle.
Senate advocates for H 4427 presently include:
- Sal N. DiDomenico (D-Everett)
- Patricia D. Jehlen (D-Somerville)
- Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem)
- Thomas M. McGee (D-Lynn)0
- Kathleen O’Connor Ives (D-Newburyport)
- Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester)
- Patrick M. O’Connor (R-Weymouth)
- Jennifer L. Flanagan (D-Leominster)
- Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton)
- Richard J. Ross (R-Wrentham)
As discussed in last month’s blog, an early supporter of the ARRA was Senator Patrick M. O’Connor (R-Weymouth), who is up for re-election next month in the Plymouth and Norfolk senate district towns of Cohasset, Duxbury, Hingham, Hull, Marshfield, Norwell, Scituate and Weymouth.
According to Hitner, DiDomenico and Lovely have pledged to invite opponents of the bill to a meeting to discuss their concerns. It is rumored that Assistant Majority Leader Cynthia S. Creem (D-Newton) may have some issues with the bill, although Creem has not taken a public position to date. Creem, a partner at the Boston law firm of Stone, Stone & Creem, has been a prominent family law attorney in Massachusetts for nearly 40 years.
In 2011, the original Alimony Reform Act (ARA) became law in Massachusetts. The ARA completely restructured alimony in Massachusetts, including provisions that called for the presumptive reduction or termination of alimony when an alimony recipient cohabitates with a new romantic partner. The ARA also called for the presumptive termination of alimony when an alimony payor reaches federal retirement age. The ARA became effective on March 1, 2012. Thereafter, Massachusetts Probate and Family Court judges began reducing or eliminating alimony in modification actions in which there was evidence of a former spouse’s cohabitation with a new partner, and terminating alimony orders when the paying party reached federal retirement age.
On January 30, 2015, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) announced their decisions in three cases that would radically change how judges had applied the ARA for the previous three years: Chin v. Merriot; Doktor v. Doktor; and Rodman v. Rodman. In these decisions, the SJC held that alimony could only be reduced or eliminated on the grounds of cohabitation or retirement age for divorces entered prior to the ARA’s effective date of March 1, 2012. The SJC’s decision did not acknowledge that Probate and Family Court judges had reduced or terminated thousands of pre-2012 alimony orders based on a plain reading of the ARA’s text in the three years prior to SJC’s decisions.
The Massachusetts Senate is comprised of 40 members, with each Senator elected to represent a district consisting of approximately 159,000 people. Following statewide elections in November, the state’s legislative session will resume on January 1, 2017. The ARRA’s prospects for passage look increasingly bright, with 25% of the Senate now backing the bill, coupled with the unanimous support that the bill enjoyed in the House.
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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.