The joys of living in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is one of the most lucrative states in which to profit from having been married or having had a child (see our family law). The profitability of marriage per se, however, was scaled back in 2012 due to an “alimony reform” that limited the period under which a plaintiff could profit from alimony based on (a) the number of years of the pre-lawsuit marriage, and (b) whether the person profiting from alimony was living in a “marriage-type” relationship. (Because alimony profits are terminated when a profiteer remarries, it has become conventional in Massachusetts to simply live together with a new sex partner while continuing to bank funds from the former sex partner.)

Following the new law there ensued dozens of lawsuits over whether the changed rules impaired alimony profits secured prior to the cut-off date. Apparently the law was ambiguous. A recent attempt to clarify the situation was killed by Will Brownsberger (lawyer) and his committee, which includes Cynthia Creem, a practicing divorce litigator who earns more than $500/hour arguing these ambiguities.

The comments on the legislator’s page “Retroactive application of new alimony rules” shed light on the experience of being a Massachusetts resident.

From the sole female commenter who seems also to be an alimony payor:

My ex is hiding behind a BiPolar disability and also collecting SSDI [genius!]. He is physically and mentally able to support himself yet I am forced to pay my abuser $550 every WEEK! Why? Because iofbantiquated laws? Because no one had the courage to do the right thing? Is there no relief for me? My children are in their mid 30’s. I shouldn’t have to support this person who is playing every angle of every system so that he can to be a freeloader. … No one is entitled to a lifetime of free support and no one should be fired into involuntary slavery… my marriage license didn’t come with directions. If I signed a contract, I wasn’t given the terms of the contract that contained a lifetime slavery clause. Isn’t that fraud? Even a pack of cigarettes come with warnings. Shouldn’t marriage licenses?? [Her “No one is entitled to a lifetime of free support” statement would be true in Texas or Germany!]

From the new female partners of the divorce lawsuit losers:

It was very clear during the ARA process in 2011 that the intention was for the changes to apply to already-settled divorces. As to the argument that payees would have negotiated differently if they had known that the terms could be changed: Trust that my husband would have negotiated differently during his divorce from his ex-wife if he had had all the facts, as well. If he had known she had been siphoning money from his paychecks during their entire marriage and had secret accounts; if he had known she had been cheating on him with women since their engagement; if he had known that she would be cohabitating for the next fifteen years …

My partner was married for just under 20 years and has been divorced for over 20 years. He has paid child support and college tuition and over $400K in alimony so far. His divorce judgment was completely unfair, as his ex-wife was perfectly capable of working and could have made a very comfortable living without all his additional money.
As we both look toward retirement, the yearly alimony cost continues to hang over our head. Why should we have to work longer to give someone else our hard-earned money. That makes no sense.
I, too, was divorced, but I am an independent, employed, self supporting parent who wouldn’t want to be dependent on anyone to support me for the rest of my life. It sets back women’s rights back a hundred years. [she needs to review the updated definition of feminism!]

I was widowed at 36 left with three young children to raise on my own. In time I remarried, never realizing that the corrupt State of MA would actually use me and my tragic situation to subsidize my husband’s adulterous ex wife who was co-habitating with her still married boyfriend. Her wicked lawyer tried to bring me into the case, trying to gain access to my deceased husband’s estate and my Fatherless children’s bank accounts. They did all this so that they could prove my husband had enough money with me contributing so he could pay her more. He gave his ex 3/4 of his money and I was left to support the household on my own. Even after we had another child together they left me without any help. I could write a book on all the injustices that the state put me and my young children through. Alimony and child support are a joke. Women use the money for fancy houses, new cars, and luxury vacations. There is something seriously flawed with a system that leaves 99 percent of women rich and the men destitute. Women are then able to go to their second marriages with 3 incomes and men who even try to get remarried can’t even contribute to their households. if they have children with their second wife, these kids are not allowed the same standard of living because they are second class citizens.

My husband is 67 years old and has no hope of retirement if his alimony burden of $400 a week, plus 25% of his yearly bonus (for a total of $25,000 a year) isn’t eliminated or at the very least reduced. His ex-wife collects disability and most likely nets more income each week than he does! His 401K was split 50/50 in the divorce. Why should he continue to pay her out of his retirement income too?

Why is it fair or correct that a person receiving alimony should live in a marriage type relationship and still collect alimony? This is not 1974 where cohabitation was considered improper.

My husband was divorced two months too early and now has a lifetime of alimony to a woman who has chosen to work part time. The 20 hours a week she works as a child-care worker is equal to the hours I spend commuting to my job at the federal courthouse in Boston, and then I work a 50-hour week. She lives in a brand-new townhome and we are residing in an attic of an 1800’s home (three-story walkup).

From the men:

my ex is now very well financially secure. She has a wonderful job, making a six figure salary, all three children are independent (ages 25-31), her home is fully paid off, no debt, a new car every few years, wonderful vacations multiple times per year, etc. She has a boyfriend of over 6 years that she refuses to marry so that she doesn’t lose the alimony payment.  My divorce was finalized over 15 years ago. I had no issue with paying the alimony during the period of transition and I went above and beyond the divorce agreement by paying well over 90% of the three children’s private (2) and public college tuition costs, when my obligation was 50%. My ex is financially stable and I find it totally unfair to have to pay alimony for the rest of my life.

My ex-wife has a four year college degree, she is very healthy and chooses to work 4 hours a day, and only during the school year, as I struggle to make end meet. She has no interest in becoming self sufficient, she has me supporting her for the rest of my life. She has enjoyed vacations out of the country and several cruises to the Caribbean, I work, period. I will never be able to retire, and as I am now 60 years old, having worked since the age of 14, the thought of working until I die, or my health fails dramatically is nothing I look forward to. I was under the mistaken impression the Alimony Reform Act would allow me to retire, or at least be able to work beyond retirement, and put a way money to retire, as currently my retirement money has and continues to go towards alimony.

Sorry folks but repeal of lifetime alimony must have been a devastating blow to the divorce industry, if given a choice between waiting out a perhaps unjust 10 year sentence or throwing away tens of thousands of dollars or more seeking justice in a kangaroo court, most rational people probably do the math and choose the former. More than just doing the math, a tenner in Gulag parlance is an injustice that the spirit can survive. The lifetime sentence is something that the spirit can’t survive, like a chain that bites deeper into the skin as time goes on. On the business end a slave for life is much easier to defraud than someone doing a tenner, the false hope the divorce industry sells can’t get a very good price when the victim knows he or she will walk away a free person at some point.

I wonder how you’d enjoy your ex-spouse (in my case, ex-wife) enjoying the life or Riley with her live-in boyfriend of five years, another for six years prior, while I send along her weekly checks to support her drinking habits! I am left to support one in college and saddled with all of the $80,000 tuition of the other. She doesn’t make any payments on either. She works for cash so as not to jeopardize her eligibility for alimony. You have no idea how hard this is to watch her enjoy her financial freedom, out in the bars every night with her co-habitant boyfriend!

I was a young man when I got divorced at the age of 27 years old. For over the next 30 years I was paying alimony to a spouse who was working and cohabitating all those years. … I am an old man now and am still working. I live a simple lifestyle compared to former spouse and boyfriend who have had it all.

My alimony was based on my working salary of over 100k per annum. When I retired in 2003 after 37 years of government service, my salary dropped to 65k. I have had to go through all of my 401k to support this alimony, to the point where I may have to file for bankruptcy. At 72 years of age this is grossly unfair to have to pay my ex spouse $560 per month, especially considering that she now receives a trust fund from her deceased boy friend.

I will never understand why it is that I need to continue alimony to my ex-wife through retirement when she already received 1/2 my pension and 1/2 my 401k.

I think it would be interesting to interview people preparing to get married and then live in Massachusetts and see if reading the above comments affected their enthusiasm either regarding (a) entering into a civil marriage, or (b) continuing to reside in Massachusetts and running the risk of ending up like of the commenters. [Option (c), entering into a prenuptial agreement that controls alimony, is not possible to do with any certainty in MA; see Massachusetts Prenuptial Agreements.] Is love so powerful that it can sweep away all caution? Or is it simply that most people are’t familiar with these outcomes, reasonably predictable in the event that the lower-income partner files a divorce lawsuit? (we did a quick survey in Harvard Square and found that college-educated adult residents knew virtually nothing about Massachusetts family law)


10 thoughts on “The joys of living in Massachusetts

  1. Why not simply move to another country? Surely the guy who cashed out his 401K to pay alimony could have stopped paying after he reverse-mortgaged his house to the hilt, skipped out to Mexico or Brazil or France and lived out the rest of his days in self-imposed but profitable exile. Having the double satisfaction of keeping his money while also knowing the ex-wife was fuming over the ding to her plans.

  2. Given that the folks commenting on Will Brownsberger’s page are mostly older than what would have been their retirement age (had they not been sued), absent an alimony order against them, retiring in a foreign country would seem like a reasonable choice.

    However… a successful alimony plaintiff can intercept the loser spouse’s Social Security benefits (see ). So if the divorce lawsuit defendant was counting on Social Security, that evaporates. Medicare doesn’t pay for care outside of the U.S. either, I don’t think. IF the loser spouse comes back to the U.S. for care and isn’t up to date on alimony payments, it is time for imprisonment (I guess the prison does have to provide any required medical treatment, though).

    Starting in 1956 there was also an international movement to enable alimony plaintiffs to recover their winnings regardless of where the defendant settled. See

    I think in practice it is usually a good situation for the lawyers when one party is in a different country. They can run up $1 million or more in bills pretty quickly. When we did the interviews for we found that most lawsuit losers just paid, moved back in with their parents, rented a room in someone else’s house, or found some other way to live on a small percentage of their income.

  3. I think most people do not know the “real life” ramifications of divorce, which Phil to his credit (frequently) identifies. As someone pointed out in the quoted material, a marriage license could be drafted in the form of a contract with the results if the contract is rescinded. It should also be pretty easy to have mechanical rules regarding the financial ramifications that are processed by a machine with no human involvement except in the most exceptional circumstances. But the rules are vague and ambiguous and applied whimsically. The primary beneficiaries of the vagueness and ambiguity are the matrimonial lawyers, who are then given the opportunity to earn big fees by litigating — which the financially stronger party will fund. Other beneficiaries are the various hangers on, the mental health “professionals,” and the judges and court officers who have jobs. It is a very unsatisfactory area of the law that is highly remunerative to mostly untalented lawyers.

  4. Jack: I was just in Seattle and a guy who’d been sued told me that when he hired a defense lawyer the first question was “Who’s the judge? That will determine how much you will have to pay her.” He thought it was surprising that the “fair” or “just” amount for her divorce profits would vary widely and predictably from judge to judge. How could it be justice if each judge had a different way of doing things? The public perception is definitely out of sync with the law as it is implemented.

    Actually, the public is not totally out of sync with the law. When there has been a stay-at-home parent for many years and the “breadwinner parent” decides to end the marriage, people seem to think that the breadwinner should pay. They get out of sync with the no-fault system, though. When it is the stay-at-home parent who wants to have sex with the neighbors and make the breadwinner pay, they want to give the adventurous stay-at-home parent more money. Women in particular are against the idea of paying men to break up with an old wife and start having sex with younger women. And most Americans seem opposed to the concept of post-divorce cashflow between two working adults. They think it is fair for someone who doesn’t work or can’t work to get money. If both spouses work, which seems to be the most common situation for litigated divorces, the family law system in most states is passionate about making one former spouse pay the other. Ordinary citizens, however, want the former spouse to live on his or her income going forward rather than tapping into the old sex partner’s paycheck.

  5. A good lawyer knows the law, but a great lawyer knows the judge.
    A basic principle of jurisprudence…..

  6. Divorce law is a wealthy person’s problem.

    If you have children and are not wealthy, the government already incentivizes staying single — it is far easier and lucrative for a single mother to collect welfare than a married couple.

    If you are odd enough to marry, until you get into six-figure family incomes, there just is not enough income to comfortably split between two households.

    Money aside, I do not envy my divorced friends — a child needs both a mother and a father, and every husband needs a wife. How is a child supposed to make sense of the world when his parents are at odds with each other? How can a mother hope to guide her child through the tribulations of life if she cannot navigate the difficulties of her own marriage?

  7. @philg I agree, it might be that it would be difficult to hide these days. But it is not impossible. In WW2 it was told to soldiers that they have a duty to escape if captured and made a POW. Actually, I wonder if some of these divorce cases violate the Geneva Convention!

  8. Mememe, you are correct. Given that the value of government benefits to single women with children is about $70,000 in after tax dollars (Medicaid, SNAP, Pell and FSEOG grants, section 8, subsidized housing and low interest, next to no money down mortgages, etc), it makes no sense for a mother to marry unless the man earns over $100,000. Her economic situation is best if she marries a man other than the father of her child(ren). This is a whole massive subculture of women who are shamelessly living of the taxpayer and the father of their child(ren), who has zero sense of reciprocity and 100% entitlement.

  9. paddy7 & scarlet number – read the documents are what is permissible in the treatment of enemy POWs and compare to how much better it is than what can happen to your law abiding man in divorce court.

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