General term alimony is typically awarded in longer term marriages, but can be awarded regardless of the length of the marriage. Massachusetts’ law provides that alimony should not exceed the recipient spouse’s need or 30% to 35% of the difference in income between the spouses.
The length of time general term alimony is awarded for, depends on the length of the marriage:
Marriage of 0 – 5 years: General term alimony awarded for no more than 50% of the number of months of the marriage.
Marriage of 5 – 10 years: General term alimony awarded for no more than 60% of the number of months of the marriage.
Marriage of 10 – 15 years: General term alimony awarded for no more than 70% of the number of months of the marriage.
Marriage of 15 – 20 years General term alimony awarded for no more than 80% of the number of months of the marriage.
Marriage of over 20 years: The court may order alimony for an indefinite length of time for marriages for which the length of the marriage was longer than 20 years.
General term alimony ends automatically if:
- 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 ended 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.
A “common household” is when two people share a primary residence together with or without others. In determining whether the recipient is maintaining a common household, the court may consider any of the following factors:
(i) oral or written statements or representations made to third parties regarding the relationship of the persons;
(ii) the economic interdependence of the couple or economic dependence of 1 person on the other;
(iii) the persons engaging in conduct and collaborative roles in furtherance of their life together;
(iv) the benefit in the life of either or both of the persons from their relationship;
(v) the community reputation of the persons as a couple; or
(vi) other relevant and material factors.
Can be awarded for any length of marriage
Rehabilitative alimony is support paid on a periodic basis to an ex-spouse who is expected to be able to financially support themselves by a predicted time, by way of reemployment; completion of job training; or receipt of a lump sum due from the payor spouse (by way of a court judgment).
Length: Rehabilitative alimony cannot exceed 5 years.
Unless the recipient has remarried, periodic payments of rehabilitative alimony may be extended. In order to extend rehabilitative alimony, a complaint for modification must successfully prove to the court that:
(1) Unforeseen events have prevented the recipient spouse from being self-supporting at the end of the term.
(2) The court finds that the recipient tried to become self-supporting; and
(3) The payor is able to pay without additional burden.
Modifiable? Yes. The court may modify the amount of periodic rehabilitative alimony based upon material change of circumstance within the rehabilitative period, and the court may extend the time for payment based on the length of the marriage.
For marriages up to 5 years in length
Reimbursement alimony is support paid on a periodic basis or in a lump sum after a marriage of not more than 5 years. Reimbursement alimony is awarded to make up for costs that the receiving spouse paid to financially assist the paying spouse. An example of this contribution is enabling your spouse to complete an education or job training.
Length: Reimbursement alimony shall terminate upon the death of the recipient or an otherwise defined date.
Modifiable? No. Once the court has ordered reimbursement alimony, the parties shall not seek, and the court shall not order a modification of reimbursement alimony. This may include expenses paid for education, job training, or other associated expenses.
Transitional alimony is support paid on a periodic basis or in a lump sum after a marriage of not more than five years to help the receiving spouse settle into a new location or adjusted lifestyle after a divorce.
Length: Transitional alimony cannot last longer than 3 years from the date of the divorce. It can also terminate upon the death of the recipient spouse. The court may require the payor to provide reasonable security for payment of sums due to the recipient in the event of the payor’s death during the alimony term.
Modifiable? No. A court cannot modify or extend transitional alimony or replace transitional alimony with another form of alimony