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How long does alimony last, and how much can a spouse receive?

On Behalf of | Oct 9, 2023 | Spousal Maintenance

There are various financial consequences associated with divorce in Massachusetts. Couples generally have to pay for divorce and find a way to share their financial resources. If they have minor children, one parent will almost certainly be ordered to pay child support. Occasionally, a spouse could request alimony as well.

Alimony involves one spouse making monthly payments to the other, usually to better ensure that they can maintain a reasonable standard of living during and after the divorce. Spouses often fight intensely over alimony, as they may disagree about whether it is necessary, how much it should amount to and how long it should last.

One spouse may depend almost entirely on alimony to pay their bills until they restart their career, but the other may worry about the financial strain of providing that support. The courts have the balance the interests of both spouses when deciding how much alimony someone should receive when a divorce is contentious and requires litigation.

Income and marriage length affect alimony

There are two main factors that largely guide how the courts handle alimony requests. A judge needs to look at the income of the two spouses. Typically, alimony may amount to between 30 and 35% of the difference between the income of the two spouses. The bigger the discrepancy in earning potential, the bigger the payments could be.

How long the payments last will usually depend on the length of the marriage. Marriages that lasted for less than 5 years will usually lead to alimony for no more than half the duration of the marriage. Dependent spouses can receive alimony for 60% of the marriage’s duration if they remained married for between five and 10 years.

Those married for between 10 and 15 years can receive alimony for 70% of the number of months they stayed married, while those married for between 15 and 20 years can receive alimony for 80% of the length of the marriage. Only those who remained married for 20 years or longer can potentially qualify for indefinite alimony unless there are extreme and unusual circumstances.

Understanding how Massachusetts courts handle alimony requests may help people better prepare for divorce negotiations or family court in more informed ways. Seeking legal guidance can provide that clarity.