The inconsistencies generated by Massachusetts’ alimony "reform" are not only internal. The pre-existing alimony and equitable property division statute, known as "Section 34", provides that if one of the parties has access to health care coverage at reasonable cost, it shall provided for the benefit of the other party. Further, the law cautions, the cost to the covered party, shall not cause a reduction in the sum of alimony paid. This statute was neither amended nor repealed with the onset of the new alimony statute on March 1, 2012.
Enter the new alimony law. Much of it is devoted to the required setting of durational payment limits and regulating maximum sums to be paid, as a percentage of the parties' comparative gross incomes. However, the statute also contains provisions that give judges discretion to "deviate" from these provisions, based upon a consideration of enumerated factors. One of those factors that may justify reduced alimony rights is the cost of medical insurance. In other words, the cost of health coverage can reduce alimony paid.
Will the legislature reconcile this conflict?
As divorce mediators, we can only explain that the conflict exists and let the parties determine for themselves which law to follow and which to disregard.