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Patrick Signs Sweeping Overhaul Of Alimony Laws

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick on Monday signed a sweeping overhaul of the state's alimony statutes into law.

The new law establishes guidelines for alimony payments and limits their duration, virtually ending so-called "lifetime alimony" payments ordered by some judges in divorce cases.

One of the biggest changes in the law would set limits on how long a spouse can receive alimony, based on how long the couple was married. For example, for a marriage of five years or fewer, alimony would be required for no more than half that amount of time.

"This will end, in most cases, alimony for life in the state of Massachusetts," said Steve Hitner, who led the grassroots effort to change the law. "The idea of alimony for life is really born of another age when women didn't work."

The state's earlier alimony laws didn't set any time limits. The bill's supporters said the new guidelines will help judges make fair decisions.

The new law also allows a judge to end alimony payments if the individual receiving payments is living with a new partner — even if they haven't formally married. And in most cases, alimony payments will end at retirement.

With reporting by The Associated Press and WBUR's Monica Brady-Myerov

This program aired on September 26, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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