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New alimony law in Massachusetts isn’t ‘hoped-for panacea’

Posted Oct 25, 2013 6:15 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Massachusetts' new alimony law, enacted last year, was held up as a model as reform.

But the law “hasn’t been the hoped-for panacea,” the Boston Globe reports. Some complain that judges are misinterpreting or even ignoring the law, which was passed to encourage spouses to rebuild their lives and take care of themselves after divorce.

The Boston Globe describes the law’s reforms. It sets time limits on alimony for marriages of 20 years or less, generally stops alimony payments when the person making the payments reaches full retirement age, and ends payments when the person getting the money has lived with a new partner for at least three months.

One issue is whether the law’s ban on payments after cohabitation applies only to those who moved in with each other after the law took effect. Another issue is whether judges are applying the new law.

In one case highlighted in the article, Gary Young says he is 67 years old, but he is still under an order to pay nearly $4,000 a month in alimony, based on a calculation of income before 2009, when he launched a biotech startup that later failed. Before that, Young was a pharmacist and later a well-paid executive with a medical device company, the story says.

Gary Young, who is part Cherokee, fled to an Indian reservation in Oklahoma because he didn’t think he should have to pay, the story says. Before fleeing, he was briefly jailed for failing to pay his wife’s lawyer $20,000 until his family and friends paid the money.

Now he’s in debt and unemployed, Young says, and he’s living on $880 per month in Social Security benefits, the amount left over when his checks were garnished to pay $1,320 to his ex-wife of 34 years, the story says.

The ex-wife, Elaine Young, told the Globe her earnings on sales jobs were affected during the marriage because her husband frequently decided to move, and she can no longer work because of rheumatoid arthritis. She receives about $3,100 a month, total, from the garnished payments, her Social Security and pension, as well as $422 from a retirement plan from a former employer of her husband.

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