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Family Law
Mass SJC rules on constitutionality of Massachusetts Alimony Statute
By David H. Goodman, Jun. 6th, 2017

Van Arsdale v. Van Arsdale (SJC 12223)


“This appeal raises the constitutionality of applying the durational limits of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 (act), St. 2011, c. 124, to certain alimony agreements predating the act's effective date. We conclude that the application of 2 the act's durational limits to certain alimony agreements that predate the act is not unconstitutionally retroactive because the statute does not attach "new legal consequences to events completed before its enactment."

“The relevant change on appeal is the creation of durational limits -- or presumptive termination dates -- for alimony obligations arising from marriages lasting fewer than twenty years. G. L. c. 208, § 49 (b). This presumption that alimony should terminate after a certain length of time may be overcome, however, by showing that the payment of alimony beyond the relevant durational limit is "required in the interests of 3 justice."

“The Legislature provided that the durational limits, in contrast to the remainder of the act, may be applied to alimony judgments that entered before the act's effective date of March 1, 2012, with certain delineated exceptions not relevant here. “