Heard: March 6, 2017.
for divorce filed in the Essex Division of the Probate and
Family Court Department on October 30, 1996.
complaint for modification, filed on September 1, 2015, was
heard by Mary Anne Sahagian, J.
Supreme Judicial Court granted an application for direct
E. Cherny (Erin M. Shapiro also present) for the wife.
M. Kane (Allison R. McNulty also present) for the husband.
Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy, & Budd,
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
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."
Landgraf v. USI Film Prods., 511
U.S. 244, 270 (1994). We also conclude that the Probate and
Family Court judge did not abuse her discretion when she
declined to deviate from the durational limits in this case.
The Alimony Reform Act of 2011.
changed neither the essential purpose nor the basic
definition of alimony: "the payment of support from a
spouse, who has the ability to pay, to a spouse in need of
support." G. L. c. 208, § 48. See Hassey
v. Hassey, 85 Mass.App.Ct. 518, 522 (2014).
It did, however, make several changes to the
Commonwealth's alimony laws. See generally Kindregan,
Reforming Alimony: Massachusetts Reconsiders Postdivorce
Spousal Support, 46 Suffolk U. L. Rev. 13, 26
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 justice." Id. See George
v. George, 476 Mass. 65, 69-70 (2016) .
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. St. 2011, c. 124, §§ 4, 7. ...