Sen. Cindy Creem Considering Compromise on Alimony Reform

Cynthia Creem

Sen. Cynthia Creem may be Softening her Position Against Alimony Reform.

Creem has long been an opponent of Alimony Reform. When the current Alimony Reform bill (H1785) was introduced this year, Creem introduced a counter proposal S1616, sponsored by the various bar associations which would make a single two word change to the current law, and preserve current lack of guidelines. The lack of guidelines make Alimony notoriously contentious to litigate and expensive for both the State and litigants.

Sustained public pressure to pass meaningful reform convinced the Judiciary Committee chairs, Sen. Creem and Rep. O’Flaherty, that there was a need to have a substantive dialogue about the Alimony Reform issues. To their credit, the committee chairs convened a task force to study Alimony Reform composed of key stake holders, consisting of representatives from the Legislature, the Courts, the Bar associations and key Alimony Reform advocates.

The Task Force has met several times now and is making good progress reaching a consensus view on reasonable alimony guidelines which would bring Massachusetts badly outdated statute more inline with national standards. The task force meets again May 18th, in what everyone hopes will result in consensus recommendations.

Creem Speaks at Middlesex County Bar Association and Gives some Insight on Alimony Reform

On April 26, 2010, The Middlesex County Bar Association held a seminar on Alimony Reform at the Middlesex County Courthouse in Woburn, Massachusetts.

There were four speakers. The master of ceremonies was Cal Heinle, Esquire. The other speakers were Lloyd Godson, Esquire, President of the Middlesex County Bar Association, state Sen. Cynthia Creem, Esquire, and Martin Kane, Esquire. All of the speakers are attorneys who practice in the divorce area and in the Probate and Family Court.

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Sen. Creem stated “alimony laws are destined to change.” She stated that as a divorce practitioner she has represented wives who are ordered to pay alimony many times. She has introduced a bill in the Legislature (S1616) which considers the issue of duration of alimony. However, she states that duration is not enough. She wishes to have the court consider the ability of the supporting party, the standard of living, but that retirement should end alimony. She made this statement as a practitioner, but not as a legislator. She said she understands issues that are created by cohabitation which would involve no income consideration and no second income consideration.  Therefore, she has set up a task force with members of Bar associations the Chief Justice of Probate, and the President of MAR.  She does believe that something needs to be done.

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She then mentioned that there is a bill in the Legislature introduced by a group that she called “Mass Alimony Reform Group” (H1785). This group says that duration of alimony is not enough. She said they are very active and that they also are joined by a “Second Wives Group.”  This bill requires that the court consider the ability of the supporting party, the standard of living during the marriage and that retirement should end alimony completely. Sen. Creem’s bill only speaks of duration, but does not consider the factors that are in the bill of the Mass Alimony Reform Group. She warned that no one side will get everything. She said compromise is the only way a bill can get through. She suggested that all groups should get together and see if there is something in the middle. Sen. Creem’s view is that retirement with the right to end alimony at certain specific ages; such as, age 62.. 65… Or 66 might work. She labeled as is another consideration of transitional alimony. She agreed that her bill which contained the word “duration” was not specific enough. She hoped to see some change. Therefore, her task force would be a group that would accept input and recommendations, and that their findings would make Sen. Creem comfortable. She acknowledges that the Probate and Family Court are overworked. This has been a complaint of Chief Justice Carey, according to Sen. Creem. Sen. Creem indicated that a list of the members of the task force could be obtained by calling her office. She feels certain that the task force will make recommendations that will have big social value. She is hopeful that the task force will have a consensus. She believes that these who create guidelines that will include “self-support” is a big consideration. Sen. Creem concluded her remarks at this point.

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The budget cuts have hurt the courts. It is understood that the courts are looking to save the parties time and expense. There was a discussion between attorney Godson and another attorney in the audience regarding the need for the self-employed to produce their tax returns in order to make a determination as to the appropriate payment of alimony. It was said that if you want alimony to end at retirement, it must be put into the agreement. This was not done in the Pierce case. If it had been done, the Pierce case would not exist. The statutory requirements regarding the division of assets and the other considerations at the time of the divorce, including a spouse’s conduct, cannot be re-heard 18 months after the divorce is final. Therefore, the terms of alimony are determined by a judge and not by statutory considerations. Attorney Godson stated that cases from courts outside of Massachusetts should be and have been used to support arguments regarding alimony. He suggested attorney’s should save the e-mails that are harmful to the opposing party. He also said that counsel for a party should know the judge. If you don’t know the judge consult with practitioners who practice in that court before that judge. Retirement considerations should be part of the original agreement. The judge will in some cases not consider retirement with regard to the alimony issue unless it is part of the written agreement.

Another Speaker Attorney, Heinle, made reference to several cases which appeared to affect most divorce attorneys, but the principle case was entitled “Pierce v. Pierce.” This case as about a divorce involving a retired judge. He wanted to reduce or eliminate his alimony payments to his ex-wife because of his retirement and because of his financial situation. His request for modification was denied and he continued to appeal the matter to the highest court  – Supreme Judicial Court. His appeal was unsuccessful.

There was also discussion by attorney Heinle of the statutory factors that must be considered regarding an award of alimony. At this point, Sen. Creem was introduced. She admitted immediately that the alimony issue in divorce was a “hot button issue.”  She indicated that there is a bill before the late Legislature introduced by Rep. Walsh asking for a change in the law regarding alimony. This bill was actually signed by 72 legislators. The major request was that alimony have a limitation and that alimony be considered a transitory circumstance which would also consider Medicare, Social Security, or the consideration for no work at all. In other words the bill would set up a new circumstance considered “Transition Alimony.”

Sen. Creem recognizes the strength of Massachusetts Alimony Reform movement. She recognizes that the Massachusetts aAlimony Reform movement has been in the media and has thousands of supporters. Sen. Creem agrees that changes in alimony are coming, most likely through one of the suggested bills, but only if there is compromise on the part of those who sponsor these bills. She will rely upon the task force recommendations. If there’s no compromise, she suggests that the bills will be stuck in committee.

23 Comments

  • May 14, 2010 - 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Senator Creem and the Judiciary Committee should support House Bill 1400 also on Shared Parenting. The Worcester Telegram and Gazette just had an editorial is support of this bill. It is time that both fit mothers and fit fathers are both allowed to start from the 50 yard line. Children need and benefit from two fit parents in their life in both marriage and separation and divorces. It is in kids best interest for kids to spend a fair time with both parents. House Bill 1400 will help to make this a reality and it is long over due.

  • May 14, 2010 - 10:25 am | Permalink

    Senator Creem and the Judiciary Committee should support House Bill 1400 also on Shared Parenting. The Worcester Telegram and Gazette just had an editorial is support of this bill. It is time that both fit mothers and fit fathers are both allowed to start from the 50 yard line. Children need and benefit from two fit parents in their life in both marriage and separation and divorces. It is in kids best interest for kids to spend a fair time with both parents. House Bill 1400 will help to make this a reality and it is long over due.

  • David
    May 14, 2010 - 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Edit: David – Thanks for this video link. I’ve integrated it into the article.

  • David
    May 14, 2010 - 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Edit: David – Thanks for this video link. I’ve integrated it into the article.

  • Murdock
    May 15, 2010 - 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Its pretty clear that Creem wants this issue to stay vague so that she can continue to personally profit. I mean look at her pointless counter proposal bill that changes two words in a notoriously vague statute!

    Only after years and years of pressure did she finally allow this “task force” to be formed. How much profit did she make from these unfair delays where she hurt families in Massachusetts? Pretty low stuff. I don’t know how you sleep at night Cynthia.

    What a sad pathetic person.

  • Murdock
    May 15, 2010 - 9:47 am | Permalink

    Its pretty clear that Creem wants this issue to stay vague so that she can continue to personally profit. I mean look at her pointless counter proposal bill that changes two words in a notoriously vague statute!

    Only after years and years of pressure did she finally allow this “task force” to be formed. How much profit did she make from these unfair delays where she hurt families in Massachusetts? Pretty low stuff. I don’t know how you sleep at night Cynthia.

    What a sad pathetic person.

  • Emmett Barcalow
    May 20, 2010 - 1:58 am | Permalink

    With respect to alimony, if an adult is unable to work, why think that an ex-spouse should be legally required to provide financial support FOR LIFE? We don’t think that some other relative, such as a parent, sibling, child, or aunt or uncle, should be legally obligated to provide lifetime support. In fact, we generally expect the community as a whole, working through government, to provide support. If we cannot justify requiring a relative by blood to support someone for life who cannot work, how can we justify requiring it of an ex-spouse?

    While I agree that temporary support for an ex-spouse who is unable to work is called for, especially if the ex-spouse contributed meaningfully to the acquisition by the supporting spouse of a valuable asset, such as a degree or work experience, I do not think lifetime support is justified. At a minimum, the duration of support should not exceed the length of the marriage.

    • Caryhall
      November 3, 2010 - 10:01 pm | Permalink

      Are you paying alimony for life?

  • Emmett Barcalow
    May 19, 2010 - 9:58 pm | Permalink

    With respect to alimony, if an adult is unable to work, why think that an ex-spouse should be legally required to provide financial support FOR LIFE? We don’t think that some other relative, such as a parent, sibling, child, or aunt or uncle, should be legally obligated to provide lifetime support. In fact, we generally expect the community as a whole, working through government, to provide support. If we cannot justify requiring a relative by blood to support someone for life who cannot work, how can we justify requiring it of an ex-spouse?

    While I agree that temporary support for an ex-spouse who is unable to work is called for, especially if the ex-spouse contributed meaningfully to the acquisition by the supporting spouse of a valuable asset, such as a degree or work experience, I do not think lifetime support is justified. At a minimum, the duration of support should not exceed the length of the marriage.

  • Trapped
    May 20, 2010 - 2:42 pm | Permalink

    What happened at the Alimony Reform Task Force meeting of the MA legislature on May 18th where Tim Taylor and Steve Hinter attended?

    Although it’s interesting to hear Sen. Creem talk about compromise, it sounds more like political posturing than anything else. She seems pretty intent on getting the real reform proponents to cave in toward her parochial view of the issue.

  • Trapped
    May 20, 2010 - 10:42 am | Permalink

    What happened at the Alimony Reform Task Force meeting of the MA legislature on May 18th where Tim Taylor and Steve Hinter attended?

    Although it’s interesting to hear Sen. Creem talk about compromise, it sounds more like political posturing than anything else. She seems pretty intent on getting the real reform proponents to cave in toward her parochial view of the issue.

  • Shawn Gliklich
    June 2, 2010 - 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Time for Sen. Creem to go. The citizens of Massachusetts support both shared parenting and alimony reform. Sen. Creem has resisted the will of the people for too long. Not surprisingly, she was named legislator of the year by the Mass Bar Association. This to me is reason enough to vote for anybody else. She represents the interests of the lawyers, not the citizens of this state. I believe that government is supposed to be by the people, for the people. Not by the lawyers, for the lawyers! Take note folks, 15 of the 17 members of the judiciary committee are attorneys!

  • Shawn Gliklich
    June 2, 2010 - 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Time for Sen. Creem to go. The citizens of Massachusetts support both shared parenting and alimony reform. Sen. Creem has resisted the will of the people for too long. Not surprisingly, she was named legislator of the year by the Mass Bar Association. This to me is reason enough to vote for anybody else. She represents the interests of the lawyers, not the citizens of this state. I believe that government is supposed to be by the people, for the people. Not by the lawyers, for the lawyers! Take note folks, 15 of the 17 members of the judiciary committee are attorneys!

  • PTiger 1985
    June 17, 2010 - 6:03 pm | Permalink

    It is good to hear Senator Creem finally acknowledge that the Alimony Laws in MA need to be change. But I still find it very hard to forgive her for introducing Senate Bill 1616 (adding two words – “and duration” – to the existing, outdated MA statute) in the first place. Anyone who argues that judges should have near full discretion (with little legislative guidance) in determining alimony awards has either never stepped foot into a family court or, as in the case of Senator Creem, is trying to protect the lucrative billable hours that divorce attorney’s rake in negotiating and litigating alimony settlements. Even the JUDGES say that want more legislative guidance on the issue, not the near full discretion that Senator Creem advocated when she introduced SB 1616. Introducing SB 1616 was a cynical ploy to perserve the status quo and the income of divorce attornies at the expense of parting spouses and their families.

  • PTiger 1985
    June 17, 2010 - 2:03 pm | Permalink

    It is good to hear Senator Creem finally acknowledge that the Alimony Laws in MA need to be change. But I still find it very hard to forgive her for introducing Senate Bill 1616 (adding two words – “and duration” – to the existing, outdated MA statute) in the first place. Anyone who argues that judges should have near full discretion (with little legislative guidance) in determining alimony awards has either never stepped foot into a family court or, as in the case of Senator Creem, is trying to protect the lucrative billable hours that divorce attorney’s rake in negotiating and litigating alimony settlements. Even the JUDGES say that want more legislative guidance on the issue, not the near full discretion that Senator Creem advocated when she introduced SB 1616. Introducing SB 1616 was a cynical ploy to perserve the status quo and the income of divorce attornies at the expense of parting spouses and their families.

  • TPR
    June 29, 2010 - 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Any update on this? It’s out of control. Any movement form Alimony Reform to support Creem’s opponent?

    • June 29, 2010 - 10:42 pm | Permalink

      The alimony reform task force is expected to meet at least one more time. I think legislators are feeling under pressure to settle this issue and refer the bill, but everyone wants to make sure the bill is right so that it goes through without major objections.

      There has been some difficulty in scheduling the next meeting as the task force has three legislators on it, and they are busy fighting over the casino bill which at this point is in pitched battle.

      I’ve heard that in the very near future there will be another round of major articles and tv news pieces about alimony reform. Expect those to hit in the next two weeks.

      If you support Alimony Reform, you should keep calling and writing your legislator, and the members of the judiciary committee.

      • TPR
        June 30, 2010 - 4:20 pm | Permalink

        I have written several letters and got a return call from Sen. Creem’s office. I went in front of two different judges within 30 days – both thought I was getting a bad deal. One said she had the authority to remove it, but the other said she didn’t (that’s the one I had on trial date so you know what happened). I’m a vet of three wars including Iraq and Afghanistan – my ex, who’s not a citizen and never wants to be (and refuses to work), got the full benefit of these anitquated laws that still exist in our justice system. Even in the eyes of the judges, I was not getting justice. Sad, since I had wholeheartedly signed up to protect this country every time I was called. If my story helps, I’m glad to share it – this is ridiculous.

  • TPR
    June 29, 2010 - 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Any update on this? It’s out of control. Any movement form Alimony Reform to support Creem’s opponent?

    • June 29, 2010 - 6:42 pm | Permalink

      The alimony reform task force is expected to meet at least one more time. I think legislators are feeling under pressure to settle this issue and refer the bill, but everyone wants to make sure the bill is right so that it goes through without major objections.

      There has been some difficulty in scheduling the next meeting as the task force has three legislators on it, and they are busy fighting over the casino bill which at this point is in pitched battle.

      I’ve heard that in the very near future there will be another round of major articles and tv news pieces about alimony reform. Expect those to hit in the next two weeks.

      If you support Alimony Reform, you should keep calling and writing your legislator, and the members of the judiciary committee.

      • TPR
        June 30, 2010 - 12:20 pm | Permalink

        I have written several letters and got a return call from Sen. Creem’s office. I went in front of two different judges within 30 days – both thought I was getting a bad deal. One said she had the authority to remove it, but the other said she didn’t (that’s the one I had on trial date so you know what happened). I’m a vet of three wars including Iraq and Afghanistan – my ex, who’s not a citizen and never wants to be (and refuses to work), got the full benefit of these anitquated laws that still exist in our justice system. Even in the eyes of the judges, I was not getting justice. Sad, since I had wholeheartedly signed up to protect this country every time I was called. If my story helps, I’m glad to share it – this is ridiculous.

  • June 30, 2010 - 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Send your story to Massachusetts Alimony Reform. They are collecting Alimony Horrors stories. You are not the only one by any means who is being abused by our state’s broken alimony laws.

    You can send it in to:

    http://massalimonyreform.org/horror_stories.html

  • June 30, 2010 - 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Send your story to Massachusetts Alimony Reform. They are collecting Alimony Horrors stories. You are not the only one by any means who is being abused by our state’s broken alimony laws.

    You can send it in to:

    http://massalimonyreform.org/horror_stories.html

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