Massachusetts’ New Alimony Law


Welcome World!

On March 1, 2012 the Alimony Reform Bill of 2011 became law. The new alimony  statute brings some much needed clarity to the law by precisely spelling out the different kinds of alimony, time limits on alimony awards and circumstances governing modification. The following is a but a brief list of the fundamental changes that have resulted by the implementation of this new law:

TYPES OF ALIMONY: Massachusetts’ new alimony law now provides four (4) categories / types of alimony that parties must consider:

  1. General Term Alimony: The periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is economically dependent. General term alimony can now be limited in duration (see Duration below).
  2. Rehabilitative Alimony: The periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is expected to become economically self-sufficient by a predicated time. Rehabilitative alimony will not last for more than five (5) years and can be modified during those five (5) years.
  3. Reimbursement Alimony: The periodic or one-time payment of support to a recipient spouse after a marriage to compensate the recipient spouse for economic or non-economic contribution to the financial resources of the payor spouse. Cannot be modified.
  4. Transitional Alimony: To really assist those spouses in a short-term marriage adjust to a new lifestyle or location as a result of the divorce. Transitional alimony cannot be modified and cannot last longer than three (3) years.

DETERMINING AMOUNT OF ALIMONY: In determining the amount of an alimony order, the statute provides that the court shall consider the following unless there exist facts which justify deviation:

  1. 30 to 35%: The new alimony law provides that the alimony recipient should not receive more than 30 – 35% of the difference between the parties’ income.
  2. No more double-dipping: Excluded from income for alimony purposes is gross income which is considered in setting child support. Income is  defined and determined by the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, except income from capital gains, as well as dividend income.Bottom line: If all of payor spouses income is used to determine a child support order then arguably there cannot be an award of alimony as there would be no funds available with which to calculate alimony with.

DURATION OF ALIMONY: The new alimony law now sets forth the following duration limits for General Term Alimony:

  1. Married 5 years of less: If the length of the marriage is five (5) years or less, the paying spouse would pay general term alimony for not longer than 50% of the length of the marriage. (ex. 4 year marriage, payor spouse would only pay for 2 years).
  2. Married more than 5 years, but less than 10 years: If the length of the marriage is greater than 5 years but less than 10 years, then the paying spouse would pay general term alimony for not longer than 60% of the length of the marriage. (ex. 10 year marriage, payor spouse would only pay for 6 years).
  3. Married more than 10 years, but less than 15 years: If the length of the marriage is greater than 10 years but less than 15 years, then the paying spouse would pay general terms alimony for not longer than 70% of the length of marriage. (ex. 14 year marriage, payor spouse would only pay for 9.8 years).
  4. Greater than 15, but less than 20: If the length of the marriage is greater than 15 years but less than 20 years, then the paying spouse would pay general term alimony for not longer than 80% of the length of the marriage. (ex.  18 year marriage, payor spouse would only pay for 14.4).
  5. Greater than 20: If the length of the marriage is greater than 20 years then the court may order general term alimony for an indefinite period of time.

DETERMINING WHEN TO MODIFY: To help prevent the masses of paying spouses from filing Modifications all at once, the Alimony Bill sets forth a schedule of when a paying spouse may bring the matter back before the Court:

  1. Married 5 years or less:  The paying spouse who was married 5 years or less may file a modification action on or after March 1, 2013;
  2. Married longer than 5 years, but less than 10 years: The paying spouse who was married 10 years or less, but more than 5 years, may file a modification action on or after March 1, 2014;
  3. Married longer than 10 years, but less than 15 years: The paying spouse who was married 15 years or less, but more than 10 years, may file a modification action on or after March 1, 2015;
  4. Married longer than 15 years, but less than 20 years: The paying spouse who was married longer than 15 years, but less than 20 years, may file a modification action on or after September 1, 2015.

The above are just a few of the key points within Massachusetts’ new alimony law. There are additional details which you should discuss with your family law attorney. Please do not hesitate to contact Carter Clunan & Robbins LLC with any questions or concerns regarding this new law.

For some general information on alimony / spousal support in Massachusetts I suggest that you visit the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Library Website at http://www.lawlib.state.ma.us/subject/about/alimony.html

I wish you all the best,

Joshua Robbins

Carter Clunan & Robbins LLC

5 Turner Street

Waltham, Massachusetts 02353

(T): 781-647-8100

(F): 781-647-4022

(E): josh@ccrlawgroup.com

DISCLAIMER: This communication provides general information and does not constitute legal advice. Attorney Advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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