If you and your spouse are seeking a divorce in Massachusetts, spousal support payments, or alimony, will likely be an issue that you will have to face. For information regarding the types of alimony in Massachusetts, with a focus on general term alimony, refer to the following:
What is general term alimony?
General term alimony, as defined by An Act to Reform and Improve Alimony by the Senate and House of Representatives in the General Court, is “the periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is economically dependent.” General term alimony, therefore, is alimony that’s paid for a set amount of time, the duration of which is ordered by a judge. As an additional note, Massachusetts General Law Chapter 208, Section 49 stipulates that general term alimony will be terminated when either spouse dies, or if the receiving spouse gets remarried.
General Term Alimony and Duration of Marriage
The duration that general term alimony must be paid by the economically independent spouse to the dependent spouse is based on the length of the couple’s marriage. Massachusetts General Laws Section 49 sets the following duration of general term alimony payments if the marriage is:
- Five years or less, alimony payments will not be mandated for a time period longer than one-half the number of months of the marriage;
- 10 years or less, but more than 5 years, general term alimony will be ordered for a time period that is equivalent to 60 percent the number of months of the marriage;
- 15 years or less, but more than 10 years, general term alimony will be ordered for a time period that is equivalent to 70 percent the number of months of the marriage;
- 20 years or less, but more than 15 years, general term alimony with be order for a time period that is equivalent to 80 percent the number of months of the marriage; or
- 20 years or more, general term alimony may be ordered for an indefinite length of time.
For clarification purposes, the duration of couple’s marriage is defined from the day that legal marriage was entered into to the date that a petition for divorce was filed with the court. If temporary alimony is order to be paid by one spouse to another, then the duration of general term alimony may not be reduced based on the duration that the temporary alimony has been paid, as was the case in the 2006 Supreme Judicial Court case of Holmes v. Holmes, Unless temporary alimony lasted for a prolonged period time due to initial delays by the party collecting the temporary award.
Other Types of Alimony in Massachusetts
General term alimony is not the only type of alimony that a judge may order one spouse to pay to another in the event of legal separation or divorce; rather, other types of alimony that exist under Massachusetts law include rehabilitative alimony, reimbursement alimony, and transitional alimony. These three alimony types are explained below:
Rehabilitative alimony – when an economically dependent spouse is assumed to become economically independent within a certain duration of time, the court may order rehabilitative alimony to be paid. When the receiving spouse becomes financially independent (completes job training, finishes school, etc.) the payments will be terminated. Sometimes, rehabilitative alimony is paid as a lump sum.
Reimbursement alimony – when a marriage lasts for a duration of five years or less, one spouse may be ordered to pay reimbursement alimony to the other spouse if the receiving spouse made economic or noneconomic contributions during the course of the marriage that allowed the payer to become financially independent. For example, if the financially dependent spouse helped the independent spouse attend school, then the financially dependent spouse may be entitled to reimbursement for his or her efforts.
Transitional alimony – transitional alimony is exactly what it sounds like: a payment made from one spouse to the other in order to assist the financially dependent spouse is transitioning to an adjusted lifestyle post-divorce. Transitional alimony payments do not last for a duration of more than five years.
Other Factors that Determine an Alimony Amount
In addition to the length of a marriage, other factors that may determine an alimony amount in Massachusetts include employment and ability of both spouses, lost economic opportunities as a result of marriage, age and health of both spouses, economic and noneconomic contributions of both parties in the marriage, each spouse’s income level, and anything else that a judge deems relevant.
Seek Legal Counsel for Help Understand Alimony in Divorce
If you are seeking a divorce in Massachusetts and have more questions about alimony and how it may affect you, get in contact today.