A report of the Massachusetts Bar
Association's Joint Alimony Task Force, which will serve as the
first draft of guidelines to set consistent and predictable alimony
amounts and timelines, was approved by the House of Delegates at
its May 21 meeting.
"This issue of alimony is difficult.
It is an emotionally charged issue," said MBA Treasurer Denise
Squillante, who is a member of the task force and a family law
practitioner. "Case law is mixed and conflicted. There is no cap,
no term limit, no consistent approach."
The report was one of three measures
the body unanimously approved during MBA President Edward W.
McIntyre's last HOD meeting, which was held at the MassMutual
Center in Springfield. HOD also supported:
• A report of the Drug Policy Task
Force that suggests placing drug offenders in drug treatment
programs rather than jail, resulting in the savings of tax dollars
(see article on page 1); and
• An American Bar Association
resolution urging Congress to repeal a portion of the 1996 Defense
of Marriage Act that prevents the federal government from
recognizing any same-sex marriage, even if it occurred in a state
that has legalized same-sex marriage.
The Joint Alimony Task Force, which
began its work two years ago, has outlined in the seven-page report
how to set standards for alimony in Massachusetts in certain
divorce cases. What the report does not address is alimony in
particular marriages, including those with dependent children,
mentally or physically handicapped spouses, and spouses who lack
marketable skills for a specific reason, including spousal
Recommendations include setting caps
on the amount of alimony based on income, as well as classifying
alimony as either reimbursement, rehabilitative, transitional or
security. In addition, the report suggests linking length of
alimony to the length of the marriage, with marriages up to five
years requiring alimony for 50 percent of the length of the
marriage, and marriages of more than 20 years requiring indefinite
Before the report was approved, HOD
members engaged in intense discussion of the report's specific
recommendations. Squillante was quick to point out that the report
is a working draft she expects will be altered as it moves forward.
"This is not a mandate," she added.
Fern Frolin, a former Family Law
Section chair and the Norfolk County delegate, said the actual
recommendations are not important. "Whether or not the specific
criteria is perfect or very good is not the point," Frolin said.
"Something needs to get done."
Family Law Section Council Co-Chairs
Veronica J. Fenton and Thomas J. Barbar presented HOD with the ABA
resolution that asks Congress to repeal a portion of the 1996
Defense of Marriage Act to give power back to states in regards to
same-sex marriage. Under the current act, same-sex couples cannot
file joint federal tax returns or get the same benefits as other
couples. The MBA's Individual Rights & Responsibilities Section
had already voted to support the resolution.
"This really is unprecedented for
the federal government to reach into the province of the state,"
Fenton said. "We'd like to see it go away."
In addition, at a special House of
Delegates meeting held on July 15, the MBA selected three members
to serve as delegates to the ABA.
Catherine E. Reuben was appointed as an MBA delegate, joining
Paul W. Lee and Richard C. Van Nostrand, who were reappointed. All
three will serve two-year terms that expire in August 2011.
A report of the Massachusetts Bar Association's Joint Alimony
Task Force, which will serve as the first draft of guidelines to
set consistent and predictable alimony amounts and timelines, was
unanimously approved by the House of Delegates at its May 21