Alimony

In Massachusetts Alimony is no longer an arrangement where the spouse receiving the alimony gets it for life. On March 1, 2012, the new Massachusetts Alimony Statute became effective. Part of the Statute defines Alimony as “the payment of support from a spouse, who has the ability to pay, to a spouse in need of support for a reasonable length of time, under Court order”.

The new legislation went on to give a more definite term to what is “a reasonable length of time. In fact the court must enter written finding if it is to deviate from the time periods set forth in the statute. Currently the statute provides that for marriages of 5 years or less, alimony shall continue for only 50% the number of months the parties were married. If the marriage is 10 years or less, but more than 5 years, alimony shall continue for only 60% of the number of months the parties were married. If the marriage is 15 years or less alimony shall continue for 70% of the number of months the parties were married. All of the provisions for duration of alimony can be found at: malegislature.gov.

The statute also added important new language that allows the spouse who is paying the alimony to suspend, reduce or terminate general alimony if the spouse receiving alimony has maintained a common household with another person for a continuous period of at least 3 months. The new alimony law goes on to provide the types of things a Court may consider in determining if the recipient spouse is cohabitating.

Alimony also stops under the new law once the paying spouse reaches full retirement age. The payor’s ability to work beyond retirement age is no longer a reason to extend alimony, unless there is some other good cause to do so.

In determining the amount of alimony to pay the court still considers all of the customary factors it uses to determine division of assets in a divorce, like length of marriage, age of parties, health of parties, income, employment and employability, education, marital lifestyle, lost economic opportunity as a result of the marriage. Generally the statute indicates that the amount of alimony should generally not exceed the recipients need or 30 to 35 percent of the difference between the parties’ gross incomes established at the time of the order being issued. The statute further establishes that when issuing alimony the court should exclude for its income calculation: capital gains, dividend and interest income from assets already divided between the parties in the divorce, and gross income which the Court already considered in setting a child support order.

  • Finally, the new alimony statute set dates upon which prior Alimony Orders which have no end date could be modified which are as follows:

  • Payors who were married to the alimony receivers for 5 years or less can file a complaint to modify alimony after March 1, 2013.

  • Payors who were married to the alimony receivers for 10 years or less can file a complaint to modify alimony after March 1, 2014.

  • Payors who were married to the alimony receivers for 15 years or less can file a complaint to modify alimony after March 1, 2015.

  • Payors who were married to the alimony receivers for 20 years or less can file a complaint to modify alimony after March 1, 2016.

Therefore is important for persons who are obligated to pay alimony to have their Court Orders for alimony reviewed to see if they can be successfuly modified to comply with the new statutory requirements.

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