About Alimony
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Whether you refer to it as spousal support or alimony, the question of whether one partner is entitled to receive financial support from the other during and after divorce is often one of the most hotly contested issues. Decisions affect both partners emotionally and financially.

Working with an attorney who understands the factors that influence alimony decisions can make all the difference in the process as well as the outcome. At Divorce Mediation Group, we strive to develop realistic support plans with minimal conflict, so that both partners are able to move forward after the divorce.

We mediate alimony issues across Hampden County including  Springfield, Agawam, West Springfield, Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Westfield, Chicopee,  Northampton, Holyoke, Wilbraham, Palmer, and communities throughout Massachusetts.

Types of Alimony in Massachusetts

Before you can develop your goals for spousal support, you need to understand the different types of alimony that a court can award in Massachusetts. One type may seem appropriate in your situation while others might not be.

Long term payments made to a former spouse who is found to be economically dependent on the other spouse—what many people think of as traditional alimony—is referred to as general term alimony in Massachusetts.  In many cases, the duration of general term alimony is limited by statute based on the length of the marriage.

Alimony payments made for a set period of time to allow a spouse to gain additional training or education to become self-supporting is known as rehabilitative alimony. Somewhat similar to that is transitional alimony, which is paid to spouses for a short term to transition to a new location or adjusted lifestyle.

Finally, if one spouse made sacrifices to put another spouse through school or otherwise further their career, the court can award reimbursement alimony. Income guidelines do not apply to this form of alimony, and once ordered, it cannot be modified.

Duration and Amounts of Alimony Payments

Although the laws establish certain guidelines, judges have considerable discretion in deciding whether to award alimony, how much, and for how long. That makes it crucial to ensure that you make the court aware of all the relevant evidence to support your arguments regarding alimony.

The length of the marriage is a key determining factor. Generally, the longer the marriage, the longer the payor will have to pay alimony. If the parties lived together in an “economic partnership” prior to the marriage, often called “cohabitation,” a  judge has discretion to add the length of the cohabitation to the length of the marriage. Reimbursement and transitional alimony are only available in situations where a couple was married for less than five years. General term alimony may be awarded for any length of time if a couple has been married for more than 20 years. There are certain criteria that may terminate a general term alimony award, such as the payor attaining full Social Security retirement age. If the marriage was under 20 years, the duration of payments is limited by statute as follows:

  • 15-20 year marriage – payments can continue for no longer than 80% of the length of the marriage
  • 10-15 year marriage – payments can continue for no longer than 70% of the length of the marriage
  • 5-10 year marriage—payments can continue for no longer than 60% of the length of the marriage
  • Under 5 years of marriage—payments can continue for no longer than 50% of the length of the marriage.

For example, if a couple was married for 13 years, alimony could be ordered for no longer than 70% of those 13 years or a little over 9 years.

When setting the duration and amount of alimony payments, the court looks at a variety of factors besides the length of the marriage, such as the parties’ lifestyle during the marriage, the age and health of each partner, their occupations and incomes, any special needs, and their opportunities to acquire additional income and assets in the future.

At its core, alimony is about whether the recipient spouse has a need for support and whether the payor spouse has the ability to pay support.  Given that most spouses do not have the disposable income to pay for the expenses of two separate households, the question becomes how much alimony is appropriate to meet the “need” of the recipient spouse?

In 2012 Massachusetts implemented guidelines that established alimony to be 30-35% of the difference between the payor and recipient’s respective incomes.  However, this percentage was calculated under the presumption that the recipient spouse would pay income taxes (federal and state) on the alimony they received, and that the payor spouse would be able to deduct the alimony payments from their annual federal and state income tax returns.  The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated the ability of a payor spouse to deduct alimony from their federal income tax returns and no longer required recipient spouses to claim alimony as income for purposes of their federal income tax returns.  As a result, the 30-35% guideline for alimony in Massachusetts is no longer mathematically appropriate; yet the Massachusetts legislature has not designed to change the law.  Therefore, in order to assess the appropriate amount of alimony that one spouse should pay to the other, parties should be prepared to engage the services of a CPA to conduct a brief analysis of an adjusted percentage that takes into account the change to the tax status of alimony payments.  Most likely, this adjusted percentage will fall between 22-28%.

Work With An Experienced Alimony Lawyer

There are numerous factors that influence a judge’s decision to award alimony. Your lawyer needs to present all available evidence and solid legal arguments to support your position.

At Divorce Mediation Group, our legal team will develop the best strategy to reach your goals in an alimony determination. Whether you are seeking a modification of alimony, or the issue is being decided for the first time, we invite you to schedule a case evaluation to learn more about your options and the pathway to a successful outcome.

Divorce Mediation Group
Divorce Mediation is better for children. The divorcing parents remain in charge of their children’s interests and needs, and are able to construct a cooperative parenting plan without turning the children’s futures over to judges and lawyers. It is a more private and confidential process. Private lives and family finances are not paraded before the public.

Attorney Michael Frazee
Divorce Mediation Group
An alternative you should explore

Divorce Mediation is a much less stressful emotional experience than the traditional divorce process. Working together with a skilled mediator in a negotiation process results in much less animosity and ill will than the protracted confrontation that may occur between adversarial lawyers and their clients. The shortened time duration of the process as well as the considerably lower cost of mediation, also contribute to a lower level of emotional stress.

Divorce Mediation Group