State Senate Declines Vote on Alimony Reform and Child Custody Bills in 2016


Massachusetts Divorce lawyer Jason V. Owens recaps the defeat of “an act reforming alimony in Massachusetts” and the “Massachusetts Child-Centered Family Law” in the state senate.

For much of 2016, this blog has followed the progress of “an act reforming alimony in Massachusetts” (also known as the Alimony Re-Reform Bill) and the “Massachusetts Child-Centered Family Law” – two family-law oriented bills that passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 2016. However, neither bill received a vote in the state senate before the close of the summer legislative session on July 31, 2016. A new legislative session begins on January 1, 2017, but the fate of each bill is uncertain for now.

Although both bills passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives, it appears the bills died in the senate in different ways. The alimony bill was backed by vocal and committed supporters. The bill appeared destined for passage in the senate after passing in the House on a unanimous, 156-0 vote. Our sources tell us that after passing the house, the alimony bill met stiff resistance in the senate from opponents of the original Alimony Reform Act, which passed in 2011.

In contrast, support for the child custody bill appeared to evaporate after a series of amendments transformed the bill from one that would radically re-shape Massachusetts custody law by making shared physical custody presumptive to a far more modest final bill. The final amendments in the House were subject to a motion to reconsider by the bill’s backers; however, the motion was denied. Although the amended bill ultimately passed the House, it’s likely the bill’s backers had little enthusiasm for the final product.

In short, the alimony bill was backed by vocal supporters who fought for passage in the house, only to be defeated by opponents in the senate. In contrast, the custody bill never truly escaped the house, where amendments by house opponents deprived the bill’s original supporters of the core language in the original bill.

If we hear more about either bill’s prospects in 2017, we will be sure to pass on the news.

UPDATE (8/3/16): Alimony Reform Advocate Says Fight to Pass Alimony Bill will Continue

In an email sent late in the evening of August 2, 2016, Steve Hitner of Mass Alimony Reform indicated that advocates will continue fighting to pass in the bill in the 2017 legislative session, writing:

This past Sunday, July 31, 2016 was the last formal session of the Senate.

Unfortunately, H 4427 never made it out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

However, it is not too late, as there will be informal meetings until December 31, 2016. If we do this right, we can still get the job done.

There are many reasons why H4427 is still in W and M.:

1. Too many Bills and not enough time to act on all of them.

2. Opposition from others.

3. No Senate advocate with passion for the Bill.

4. Minimal media attention.

5. We did not educate enough Senators to the need for passage.

Hitner urged supporters to contact state senators to schedule in-person meetings to push for the bill’s passage next year.

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About the Author: Jason V. Owens is a Massachusetts divorce lawyer and Massachusetts family law attorney for Lynch & Owens, located in Hingham, Massachusetts.

Schedule a free consultation with Jason V. Owens today at (781) 253-2049 or send him an email