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What is alimony, and how is it determined in Massachusetts?

If you're headed into a divorce, you've probably been asking yourself about alimony and what it is. Alimony, also known as spousal support in some states, provides money to one of the spouses after a divorce. For instance, if you were the higher earner in your marriage, you may have to pay a percentage of your income to your ex as alimony.

Alimony was designed to limit unfair economic effects from a divorce. It allows non-wage-earners and low-wage earners to continue to have an income from the wage-earning spouse. The justification is that one of the spouses may have been a stay-at-home parent, or perhaps that the marriage was one with high assets, so the ex deserves to maintain that standard of living.

Alimony is determined based on a number of factors in Massachusetts. The court considers your age, standard of living during the marriage, the length of your marriage, the ability of you or your spouse to pay, the length of time needed for the alimony-receiving spouse to train or get into a self-sufficient state and other factors. There are no exact monetary guidelines for alimony, and that means a court could essentially order any amount to be paid.

Alimony is typically only paid as long as necessary for the recipient to become self-supportive. If there is no termination date, the person paying will have to do so until a date is determined. If the payer's ex remarries, then the payments end in most cases. Surprisingly, the death of the payer doesn't automatically end payments. In some cases, the payer's estate or life insurance proceeds could be used to continue making payments to the person's ex-spouse.

Source: Findlaw, "Spousal Support (Alimony) Basics" Sep. 03, 2014

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