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Alimony, also called spousal support or spousal maintenance, is the money one spouse pays to another after a divorce has been finalized. With alimony, the goal is to help a spouse maintain a similar lifestyle as he or she had before the divorce. Alimony prevents either spouse from becoming disproportionately responsible for the other after the divorce.
Types of Alimony
In Massachusetts, there are four types of alimony:
- General Term Alimony: This is the regular payment of financial support to an ex-spouse who is financially dependent on the other. The duration of these payments depends on the length of the marriage.
- Rehabilitative Alimony: This type is awarded to an ex-spouse who is expected to become self-sufficient by a predicted time. For instance, this might be appropriate when an ex-spouse needs to complete job training or education to become employable.
- Reimbursement Alimony: This is paid to the ex-spouse in compensation for expenses the ex-spouse paid during the marriage such as educational or job training expenses. This is typically applicable in marriages that lasted five years or less.
- Transitional Alimony: This form of alimony helps transition the recipient to an adjusted lifestyle or location following a divorce. Like reimbursement alimony, this is also common in marriages of five years or less.
Alimony After 2012: The Passing of the Alimony Reform Act
Alimony drastically changed in 2012 when the Alimony Reform Act was passed.
Before 2012, Massachusetts courts used a standardized formula for calculating alimony that factored in things such as spousal age, earning capacity, length of marriage, employability and more. One of the biggest changes the Alimony Reform Act was limiting the duration of alimony, but other factors such as cohabitation, retirement and income changes also affect alimony.
Now, alimony duration has limits that correspond to the length of the marriage:
- Married 5 Years or Less – Alimony cannot exceed 50% of the length of the marriage
- Married 10 Years or Less – Alimony cannot exceed 60% of the length of the marriage
- Married 15 Years or Less – Alimony cannot exceed 70% of the length of the marriage
- Married 20 Years or Less – Alimony cannot exceed 80% of the length of the marriage
Other changes included changing alimony at remarriage / cohabitation (termination upon remarriage/reduction on cohabitation for three months or longer) and termination at retirement, at which point Social Security benefits are received.
Effects of Cohabitation, Retirement & Income Changes on Alimony
How Cohabitation Can Change Alimony
Not only can alimony terminate upon remarriage, it can also be reduced or suspended upon cohabitation that lasts for three months.
According to Title III, Chapter 208, Section 49(d),
"General term alimony shall be suspended, reduced or terminated upon the cohabitation of the recipient spouse when the payor shows that the recipient spouse has maintained a common household, as defined in this subsection, with another person for a continuous period of at least 3 months."
How Retirement Can Change Alimony
In Massachusetts, alimony can be terminated at retirement, at which point the spouse can receive Social Security.
According to Title III, Chapter 208, Section 49(f),
"Once issued, general term alimony orders shall terminate upon the payor attaining the full retirement age."
The statute further notes that the individual’s ability to work past retirement age is not generally a reason to extend alimony. The court may grant an extension for good cause, such as a material change of circumstances and reasons supported by convincing evidence.
How Income Changes Can Affect Alimony
Generally, in Massachusetts, alimony orders should not exceed 30 to 35% of the difference between each spouse’s gross incomes. Consequently, if one of the spouse’s income changes, he or she can petition for a modification of alimony. When circumstances such as a change in income occur, you have a right to go back to court to seek to modify your agreement.
Modifying Alimony in Massachusetts
If you are looking to modify a previously existing alimony order, you must show there there has been a change in your circumstances that alters your need or your ability to pay. The person paying alimony must prove the change is significant enough for the court to request a reduction in alimony payments and the recipient must prove the change justifies an alimony increase.
Common circumstance changes that allow modifications to alimony orders:
- Change in employment status
- Change in salary
With the help of an alimony lawyer, you may be able to modify your alimony order to better fit your circumstances successfully.
Contact Miller Law Group, P.C. for a Free Consultation
At Miller Law Group, P.C., our goal is to fight for fair alimony awards for all clients. You may be seeking alimony, or you may have been asked to pay alimony. In either circumstance, protect yourself by contacting our law firm to discuss your legal rights and options. Our representation is tailored to meet the specific needs of each client.
We fight for fair alimony awards for all our clients. Whether you are seeking alimony or your spouse is asking for you to pay alimony, we invite you to contact our Massachusetts divorce attorneys today at (508) 502-7002 for a free consultation.
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