Alimony in Massachusetts is guided by the Alimony Reform Act of 2011. Alimony is meant to provide financial support to a spouse that has a need for financial support. Of course, this is dependent on whether the payor spouse is able to pay support.
Whether and to what extent you are eligible to receive, or must pay alimony in Massachusetts, is guided by the Alimony Reform Act of 2011. The Act is grounded in the longstanding principles of Massachusetts law, and intended to provide financial support to an economically dependent spouse who is in need, by a spouse who has the ability to pay.
If your spouse is not able to provide for his or her own needs post-divorce, and you are able to pay support to help meet those needs, you may be subject to pay alimony, and vice-versa. However, if there are unemancipated children and the combined income of both parties is less than $250,000 annually, the payer may be obligated to pay only child support.
The type, amount and duration of alimony awarded depends on a number of factors set forth in the Alimony Reform Act, including, without limitation:
- length of marriage
- health of the parties
- marital lifestyle; and
- employability of the parties.
There is a formula that can be used for calculating how long alimony could be paid, which depends on the number of months you were married.
The number of months is calculated from the date of marriage to the date one of the parties was served with the divorce summons.
If you were married…
- less than 5 years, alimony could be paid for 50% of the number of months;
- less than 10 years, but more than 5 years- 60% the number of months;
- less than 15 years, but more than 10 year- 70% the number of months;
- less than 20 years but more than 15 years, 80% the number of months;
- marriages in excess of 20 years could involve a payment of alimony to the payer’s full social security retirement age.
Alimony in Massachusetts can be affected by, but is distinct from, child support. Child support is intended to provide for the needs of minor/dependent children after a divorce.
In Massachusetts, unless the parties involved have a household income in excess of $250,000 per year, the first $250,000 of combined income is used to calculate the amount of child support to be paid.
It is important to note the spouse receiving alimony must pay income taxes as if alimony were earned income. The payer of alimony can deduct the alimony payment from his/her gross taxable income
The Alimony Reform Act provides for termination, suspension, or reduction of alimony upon a number of specific events.
General term alimony ends automatically when:
- the spouse receiving the alimony remarries;
- either spouse dies; or
- the spouse paying alimony reaches “full retirement age.”
Full retirement age is the age at which the payor is eligible for full Social Security retirement benefits.
General term alimony can be suspended, reduced, or terminated if the payor spouse can show that the receiving spouse is cohabitating with another person. “Cohabitation” is defined by ‘keeping a common household’ with another person continuously for at least 3 months.
Alimony in Massachusetts is modifiable where there is a change in circumstance from the circumstances at the time the alimony order was entered and as long as the parties did not enter a binding contract that prevents any modification. Additionally, alimony ordered under prior law, before enactment of the Act, may be modifiable under certain circumstances.