MASSACHUSETTS: Should retirees get out of paying alimony?

SHOULD RETIREES GET OUT OF PAYING LIFE-LONG ALIMONY? A peek at the Rudolph Pierce v. Carniece Pierce, Massachusetts case
A couple of months back, the New York Times ran this article Retirees Still Liable for Alimony, Massachusetts Court Rules.¬† When I first read the article, I didn’t really think it was all that sexy and so I didn’t bother to comment on it. But then, since this month has been atypically uneventful, I took a second look at it and figured, hey, even if it’s not sexy, at least it’s informative. So why not run a quick post on it? So what’s the skinny on retirees and alimony?
Well, it seems that the duration of alimony is usually in the discretion of the judges in Massachusetts and other states around the country- assuming there is no antenuptial or postnuptial agreement that speaks to the issue. For the most part, life time alimony, especially at a certain income level and after a certain length of marriage, has been de rigeuer in Massachusetts. The higher earning spouse is typically on the hook until either one of the spouses die or the recipient spouse re-marries. But there was this case involving a upper middle class attorney in private practice and his wife that threatened to change the rules. The case, referenced above, is Pierce v. Pierce.
It is not like the wife was the typical stay at home mom for 30 years who had no job skills either. She had a job making upwards of $90,000 per annum till she voluntarily quit. He also voluntarily retired at 65. He was ordered to pay her over $100,000 per year alimony and after he voluntarily retired, he got that reduced to 50% or more of that figure. But he wanted to eliminate the alimony payments altogether. What the court basically came out and said is that, well, they were unwilling to eliminate the payments altogether. The fact that the husband had voluntarily retired was not the controlling issue. What the court said was that the judiciary should look at the totality of the circumstances in making a determination of whether to reduce or eliminate the requirement for life long alimony and in the case at bar, they found that since the wife had no job and was not yet eligible for social security, that the husband should be ordered to continue paying. Never mind that her assets at the time were over $1 million in aggregate. That was not the point. She was out of work and she was not eligible for retirement and he had the means to pay (he used to make over $500,000 per year as a partner in a law firm) and so he had to continue paying till he died or she died.
What do you think about that? Should someone be forced to continue to make alimony payments to a former spouse after retirement? If so, should there be a reduction in the award after retirement? And if so what criteria should be used in making a determination?
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