Understanding Alimony in Massachusetts: Form, Amount, and Duration

Understanding Alimony in Massachusetts: Form, Amount, and Duration

Alimony, or spousal support, is a critical component of divorce proceedings in Massachusetts. It aims to provide financial assistance to a dependent spouse after the dissolution of a marriage. The determination of the appropriate form, amount, and duration of alimony is a complex process that involves considering various factors.

1. Factors Considered by the Court:

When determining alimony, Massachusetts courts take several factors into account, including:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Age and health of both parties
  • Income, employment, and employability of both parties
  • Economic and non-economic contributions during the marriage
  • Marital lifestyle and the ability of each party to maintain it
  • Lost economic opportunities resulting from the marriage
  • Any other relevant and material factors deemed appropriate by the court

2. Maximum Amount of Alimony:

In most cases, the amount of alimony awarded should not exceed the recipient’s need or 30 to 35 percent of the difference between the parties’ gross incomes at the time of the order. There are exceptions, such as reimbursement alimony or when deviation is warranted based on specific circumstances.

3. Income Calculation and Exclusions:

Income for alimony purposes is defined according to the Massachusetts child support guidelines, with certain exclusions. The court does not consider capital gains income and dividend and interest income derived from assets equitably divided under section 34. Additionally, gross income already considered for child support orders is excluded from the alimony income calculation.

4. Deviations from Duration and Amount Limits:

The court may deviate from the duration and amount limits of general term alimony and rehabilitative alimony if there are valid reasons. Grounds for deviation include:

  • Advanced age, chronic illness, or unusual health circumstances of either party
  • Tax considerations relevant to the parties
  • Health insurance coverage provided by the payor and its cost
  • The cost of life insurance secured for the benefit of the recipient spouse
  • Unearned income sources and amounts, including capital gains, interest, dividends, and investment income from assets not allocated in the divorce
  • Significant premarital cohabitation with economic partnership or long marital separation, affecting the marriage’s duration
  • Inability to support oneself due to physical or mental abuse by the payor
  • Inability to support oneself due to a lack of property, maintenance, or employment opportunity
  • Any other relevant and material factors as determined by the court

5. Attributing Income to Unemployed or Underemployed Parties:

The court has the discretion to attribute income to a party who is unemployed or underemployed when calculating alimony.

6. Concurrent Child Support Orders:

If the court orders alimony concurrently with or after a child support order, the combined duration of alimony and child support should not exceed the longer of the alimony or child support duration available at the time of divorce or rehabilitative alimony beginning upon the termination of child support.

Navigating the complexities of alimony in Massachusetts requires a thorough understanding of the factors considered, income calculations, potential deviations, and the interplay with child support orders. Each case is unique, and the court exercises discretion to ensure a fair and equitable outcome for both parties involved. Consulting with an experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the process and secure the most favorable alimony arrangement based on your individual circumstances. Call our offices now to schedule an initial Free consultation. 413-732-8356