Saturday, April 12, 2014

SJC Addresses Impact of Temporary Alimony on General Term Alimony

In Holmes v. HolmesSJC-11538 (April 2, 2014), the Court held that:

"temporary alimony [under G.L. c. 208, sec 17] is separate and distinct from general term alimony [under G.L. c. 208, sec. 49], and that the duration of temporary alimony is not included in calculating the maximum presumptive duration of general term alimony" but "where temporary alimony is unusually long in duration or where the party receiving temporary alimony has caused unfair delay in the issuance of a final judgment in order to prolong the length of time in which alimony may be paid, a judge in her discretion may consider the duration of temporary alimony in determining the duration of general term alimony."

The case describes the differences between the prior alimony statute, G.L. c. 208, sec. 34, and the reform act which made several changes to the law governing alimony.  First, the old law "recognized only one category of postjudgment alimony, which the reform act now classifies as 'general term alimony,' defined as 'the periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is economically dependent.' G.L. c. 208, sec 48.  The reform act established four distinct categories of alimony:  general term alimony [under G.L. c. 208, sec. 49], rehabilitative alimony, reimbursement alimony and transitional alimony. G.L. c. 208, sec. 48.  Second, the prior alimony statute did not provide presumptive termination dates for alimony" as the reform act does (see G.L. c. 208, sec. 49[b] [general term alimony], sec 50[b] [rehabilitative alimony], 51[a] [reimbursement alimony], and 52[a] [transitional alimony]).   

The decision outlines the factors a court should consider in determining the appropriate duration of  alimony under G.L. c. 208, sec 53.  The court focused on the language of the statute as the clearest insight into legislative intent to determine that temporary alimony is separate and distinct from general term alimony.