If you have recently been awarded or ordered to pay alimony, you may wonder what the specifics are. Alimony is a court-awarded amount of financial support that is paid by one spouse to a former spouse for a set period of time. In some states, this timeline can vary greatly. In Massachusetts, the timeline for general-term alimony is laid out based on the amount of time the couple was married. Other types of alimony can be awarded, and we will discuss those further in the next section. Each alimony order will look different based on the length of time that couple was married. Read below to learn more of the specifics.
What Types of Alimony Can Be Requested or Ordered?
Four main types of alimony can be requested or ordered in Massachusetts.
The first is transitional alimony. Generally reserved for marriages that have not lasted longer than five years, transitional alimony can be awarded to the receiving spouse to help them transition into their new life after divorce. There are now two households, which can involve moving costs or necessities for the other spouse to settle into their new life.
Reimbursement alimony is typically awarded after more than five years of marriage. It can be set up as a one-time payment or in regular payments to cover the costs of the receiving spouse’s sacrifices made while married. This can cover things like the former spouse sacrificing income while the paying spouse furthered their career or completed school/training.
Rehabilitative alimony is set up to be paid to a spouse for a set period of time that they need to get to a place where they can financially sustain their lives without financial support.
General term alimony is a set amount paid regularly to a former spouse who is financially dependent on the paying spouse. The amount of time this is ordered is based on the time the couple was married.
How is General Term Alimony Calculated?
As previously discussed, alimony is calculated based on the time the couple was married. In the cases of marriages that lasted less than five years, reimbursement, rehabilitative, or transitional alimony may be awarded instead of general-term alimony. If general alimony is ordered, it is calculated based on the number of months the couple was together and can’t exceed 50% of the number of months that the couple was married. For example, if the couple were together for 24 months, alimony could not be ordered for more than 12 months.
For marriages of 10 years or less, alimony can’t be required for more than 60% of the number of months the couple was married.
For marriages of 15 years or less, alimony can’t be awarded for more than 70% of the number of months the couple was married.
For marriages of 20 years or less, the calculation for alimony payments is no more than 80% of the number of months the couple was married.
For marriages of more than 20 years, the judge can order alimony payments to be made as long as they see fit based on what they deem fair to both parties.
What are Other Reasons for Alimony to Stop?
Other than the timeline ordered by the courts, there are some circumstances in which alimony would cease. If one of the parties (the payor or the receiving spouse) dies, the alimony payments will end.
Payments are likely to end when the spouse paying the alimony reaches federal retirement age. Still, the court can also stipulate that they continue to be made out of other sources of income, such as retirement or social security benefits.
If the spouse receiving the alimony payments gets remarried, the alimony payments will cease. There are also cases where the receiving party has been living with a new partner for more than three months; the courts may order that alimony be stopped or ended at this time.
Can Alimony Be Extended?
In some cases, judges will order that alimony be extended past the amount of time initially requested based on extenuating circumstances. This can mean that alimony may be extended if the spouse receiving payments is chronically ill or has a severe medical condition that doesn’t allow them to support themselves financially. In some rare cases, the payor may be required to pay past the age of federal retirement (when alimony would typically cease) based on these factors as well.
Suppose there is substantial evidence that the receiving spouse cannot support themselves financially and is still dependent on their former spouse’s income even after the ordered timeline ends. In that case, some judges may find that an extension of payments is necessary.
Why Hire an Attorney?
For lawyers, legal jargon is part of our day-to-day lives and what we spent years of training and experience speaking. We don’t expect you to be fluent in the language or the evolving laws surrounding sensitive topics such as alimony. Even without the emotions attached to divorce and alimony, cases can be overwhelming to most people. You are not alone. We are here to provide clarity and guidance as to what may work best for you in your specific situation. You don’t have to guess or “go with your gut” on this topic. Let an experienced attorney help you to outline the facts and put together a plan with you that will work for both your immediate and long-term needs.