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Creating An Alimony Agreement That Works For You

What is alimony? Alimony is the support given by one party to an ex-spouse after the marriage has ended. Alimony can be agreed upon by the parties during the divorce process or it can be ordered by the court.

Under Massachusetts law, there has never been a right to alimony. However, in practice, courts tended to view alimony as a means to ensure the husband fulfills his obligation to take care of his wife. More recently, Massachusetts legislators have enacted statutes to eliminate any reference to gender with respect to alimony. A court may award alimony to “either of the parties” in an action for divorce.

The basic concept of alimony is that it is a means to provide for someone who was financially dependent on their spouse throughout the course of the marriage, or was deprived of economic opportunities as a result of the marriage, and now needs assistance to help the transition into post-divorce life.

How Is Alimony Determined?

In determining the amount and duration of alimony to be received by an economically dependent spouse, the family law court will consider the following factors:

  • Age of the parties
  • Health of the parties
  • Income
  • Employment
  • Economic and non-economic contributions of both parties to the marriage
  • Lost economic opportunity as a result of the marriage
  • Other factors the court considers relevant and material
  • Length of the marriage

The length of the marriage will have a significant impact on the type and amount of alimony you may receive. The shorter the marriage, the less need and justification for alimony.

Additionally, the court will inquire into the parties’ marital lifestyle and each parties’ respective ability to maintain that lifestyle, within reason, after the divorce.

If both parties are able to reasonably maintain their lifestyles they previously enjoyed during marriage, then there is little need to order alimony.

If, on the other hand, one party’s station in life becomes significantly lower than the higher-earning spouse, a court may be more inclined to award alimony to the dependent spouse.

Not All Alimony Is The Same

Massachusetts law recognizes four types of alimony.

The first type of alimony is general alimony. General alimony is defined as the periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is economically dependent.

Certain durational limits are placed on general alimony which means that unless you were married for more than twenty years, the number of months you may receive alimony is limited. For example:

  • Marriages lasting less than five years = 50%
  • Marriages lasting between five and ten years = 60%
  • Marriages lasting between ten and fifteen years = 70%
  • Marriages lasting between fifteen and twenty years = 80%

So, what does all that mean? If a marriage lasted for ten years, a court could only order general alimony for 84 months (10 years (120 months) x .7 = 84).

In cases where the marriage lasts for twenty or more years, a court may order general alimony to be paid indefinitely.

The second type of alimony is called rehabilitative alimony. This type of alimony is appropriate in cases where one spouse is economically dependent but has a predetermined date that he or she expects to be independent of their spouse and no longer in need of support. Rehabilitative alimony is defined as the periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is expected to become economically self-sufficient by a predicted time.

If a court determines that rehabilitative alimony is the appropriate form of support, those findings of fact used to reach that determination must support the conclusion that the recipient spouse’s economic dependence on the spouse is only temporary and that by a certain date, that spouse will have taken reasonable efforts to become self-sufficient.

The third type of alimony is called reimbursement alimony. It is defined as the periodic or one-time payment of support to a recipient spouse after a marriage of not more than five years to compensate the recipient spouse for economic or noneconomic contribution to the financial resources of the payor spouse, such as enabling the payor spouse to complete an education or job training. Reimbursement alimony cannot be modified by the parties themselves or by court order.

The fourth type of alimony is transitional alimony. Transitional alimony is a practical spousal payment where it is recognized that when a family ends, or a married couple gets divorced, the economically dependent spouse may need some assistance as they transition into their new life as a single person. Transitional alimony will terminate upon death of the recipient or not more than three years from the date of divorce.

Contact Our Attorneys For Help

Do you know which type of alimony is right for your situation? What happens if your alimony agreement needs to be adjusted due to moving or job loss? We can help you take the legal action necessary to create a bright future for yourself and your family.

Call our office today at 508-271-7963 or send us an email to introduce yourself.