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Alimony Should Consider Your Needs

Alimony is also called spousal support or maintenance and is a highly contentious area in divorce, provoking strong reactions from both parties. Alimony is not available (or sought) in all cases, but is available in situations where one spouse needs support following divorce and the other spouse has an ability to pay support.

Alimony is available to either spouse. 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.

Understanding Massachusetts’s Alimony Laws

Prior to the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, awards of alimony in Massachusetts were fact-driven and based upon the concept of equity. Since a judge would weigh many factors, the result was conflicting rulings and a lack of certainty for parties going through divorce. Further complicating the issue was the fact that the prior Massachusetts alimony statute did not provide a definitive end date for alimony. As a result, when an alimony order was set, there was no end date and alimony would continue until a party sought termination.

The new law provides more guidance to judges in awarding alimony and certainty to parties going through divorce. There are four general types of alimony:

  1. General-term alimony: General-term alimony is paid to a recipient spouse who is economically dependent and is subject to durational limits based upon the length of the marriage.
  2. Rehabilitative alimony: Rehabilitative alimony is meant to help a spouse who needs additional education or job training to become financially independent. It cannot last for longer than five years.
  3. Reimbursement alimony: 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 help the paying spouse complete education or job training.
  4. Transitional alimony: Transitional alimony is available in short-term marriages (less than five years) to help a recipient spouse adjust to a new lifestyle or location.

Amount And Duration Of Alimony Under The Act

Several factors are weighed in determining the amount of alimony to be paid and its duration, including:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Age of the parties
  • Economic and noneconomic contributions of each party to the marriage
  • Employment and employability of the parties
  • Ability of each party to maintain the marital lifestyle

A recipient is not entitled to a higher or better lifestyle than the payer.

The duration of any alimony award 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 Attorneys To Discuss Your Alimony Case

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 and Pittsfield, Massachusetts to serve you. You can reach us at 413-663-3200 or via email.

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