What is “alimony”?
Alimony is “the payment of support from a spouse, who has the ability to pay, to a spouse in need of support for a reasonable length of time, under a court order.” Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 208, Section 48. Only people who are divorcing or are divorced can ask for and get alimony.
What types of alimony are there?
General term alimony: support paid regularly to an ex-spouse who is financially dependent on the former spouse. The length of time general term alimony is paid depends in part on the length of the marriage, as set forth below in more detail.
Rehabilitative alimony: support paid regularly to an ex-spouse who is expected to be able to support themselves by a predicted time.
Reimbursement alimony: support paid regularly or one-time after a marriage of not more than five years to make up for costs that the ex-spouse paid to help the paying spouse, such as such as enabling the spouse to complete an education or job training.
Transitional alimony: support paid regularly or one-time after a marriage of not more than five years to help the spouse receiving the alimony to settle into a new lifestyle or location as a result of the divorce.
How Long Does Alimony Last?
General Term Alimony usually continues for a longer time for long marriages, and a shorter time for short marriages.
- Marriages 5 years or less: Alimony cannot be required for more than 50% of the number of months you were married.
- Marriages 10 years or less but more than 5 years: Alimony cannot be required for more than 60% of the number of months you were married
- Marriages 15 years or less but more than 10 years: Alimony cannot be required for more than 70% of the number of months you were married
- Marriages 20 years or less but more than 15 years: Alimony cannot be required for more than 80% of the number of months you were married
- Marriages greater than 20 years: The court can award alimony for as long as the judge finds to be appropriate
Alimony also normally ends when:
- Either spouse dies
- The spouse receiving the alimony gets married again. [Note: If you are receiving alimony and begin living with a partner for at least three months, your alimony may also be reduced or stopped.]
- The spouse paying the alimony reaches “full retirement age,” unless the judge orders something different.
- Judges can choose to continue alimony for a longer period of time, for good reason.
If alimony is supposed to end, but you would like to receive alimony for a longer time, you may file a Complaint for Modification. The court may give you an extension if you have:
- A material change of circumstances after the initial judgment establishing alimony; and
- Reasons for the extension that are supported by clear and convincing evidence.
Resources for Alimony and Asset Division
Massachusetts Law About Alimony
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