Massachusetts Alimony Attorneys

"Alimony" is also called "spousal support" or "maintenance" and is a highly contentious area in divorces, provoking strong reactions from both parties. Alimony is not available (or sought) in all cases, but is available in situations where one spouse is in need of support following divorce and the other spouse has an ability to pay support. Alimony is not available only to women; rather, it is available to either spouse no matter the gender. Historically, women were more likely to be awarded alimony because married women often faced decreased career opportunities due to less education, less time in the workforce and time spent working in the home. Now, with the recognition of same-sex marriage and as more men in "traditional" marriages work in the home, that landscape is changing.

Prior to the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 (the "Act"), awards of alimony in Massachusetts were fact-driven and based upon the concept of "equity." There were many factors a judge would weigh, resulting in conflicting rulings and a lack of certainty for parties going through the divorce process. Further complicating the issue was the fact that the prior Massachusetts alimony statute did not define an end date for alimony. As a result, at the time an alimony order was set, there was no end date in the order, permitting alimony to continue until such time as a party sought termination.

The Act was meant to provide more guidance to judges in awarding alimony and certainty to parties going through the divorce process. There are four general types of alimony: (1) general term alimony; (2) rehabilitative alimony; (3) reimbursement alimony; and (4) transitional alimony. All alimony orders entered prior to the Act are considered general term alimony. General term alimony is payment to a recipient spouse who is economically dependent and is subject to durational limits based upon the length of the marriage. Rehabilitative alimony cannot last longer than five years and is meant to help a spouse in need of additional education or job training to become financially independent. Reimbursement alimony can be ordered as a lump sum or payment over time and acts as compensation to a spouse who provided support during the marriage to assist the payor spouse complete education or job training. Transitional alimony is available in short-term (less than five year) marriages to assist a recipient spouse adjust to a new lifestyle or location

Amount And Duration Of Alimony Under The Act

There are a number of factors that are weighed in determining the amount of alimony to be paid (and the duration) including: the length of the marriage, the age of the parties, the economic and noneconomic contributions of each party to the marriage, the employment and employability of the parties and the ability of each party to maintain the marital lifestyle. A recipient is not entitled to a higher or better lifestyle than the payor. The Act provides that alimony awards "generally" should not exceed the recipient's "need" or 30-35 percent of the difference between the parties' gross incomes at the time of the divorce.

The duration of alimony awarded depends on the length of the marriage:

Length of Marriage

Duration of Award

Less than five years

No greater than 50 percent of the length of the marriage

Between five and 10 years

No greater than 60 percent of the length of the marriage

Between 10 and 15 years

No greater than 70 percent of the length of the marriage

Between 15 and 20 years

No greater than 80 percent of the length of the marriage

Over 20 years

Can be ordered for an "indefinite length of time"

Having an experienced Massachusetts family law attorney on your side can make a difference in both the amount and duration of any alimony award in your case.

Contact Our Massachusetts Family Law Attorneys

For consultation with a lawyer about a family law matter, including modification or termination of an existing alimony order, contact Donovan O'Connor & Dodig, LLP. We have offices in North Adams, Springfield and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and Bennington, Vermont, to serve you. You can reach us in Massachusetts at 413-346-5305, and in Vermont at 802-681-4792 or via email

Attorney Brigid Hennessey is a domestic relations mediator and has found mediation to be an effective tool for resolving family law problems. Through mediation, issues are often resolved with less stress, emotional turmoil and expense than other legal strategies. Attorney Hennessey is the only divorce litigator in Berkshire County who is a member of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.