Calculating Alimony In Massachusetts

On September 26, 2011, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a new bill into law entitled An Act Reforming Alimony in the Commonwealth. This new law makes significant changes to how alimony is determined and calculated. It applies to all alimony judgments entered on or after March 1, 2012, and also sets a schedule, based on the length of the marriage, for those who are already paying or receiving lifetime alimony who would like to seek a modification to an existing order.

At Koiles Pratt Family Law Group, our lawyers pride themselves on staying current as the laws change, and we are prepared to help you assess your alimony issues in light of these recent legislative updates. We know alimony can be a contentious and emotional issue. We are prepared to vigorously represent your interests in and out of court. We will work diligently to protect your rights and achieve your goals regarding alimony.

Contact us today to learn more by calling at 978-744-7774.

How Will Alimony Now Be Calculated?

This new law ends the common practice of Massachusetts family court judges awarding alimony as a permanent entitlement that can last a lifetime for a marriage of any duration. More importantly, this is the first time formal guidelines have been set out concerning how the amount of alimony payments should be calculated. This new formula is based on the length of the marriage and sets specific alimony term limits. Our proficient alimony calculation attorneys can help you properly draft and petition for an appropriate alimony order that takes these limits into account. For instance:

  • If the marriage lasted five years or less, the presumed alimony term under the law is up to 50 percent of the number of months of marriage.
  • If the marriage was 10 years or less but greater than five years, the presumed alimony term under the law is up to 60 percent of the number of months of marriage.
  • For marriages lasting 15 years or less but more than 10 years in duration, the presumed alimony term under the law is up to 70 percent of the number of months of marriage.
  • If you were married for 20 years or less but more than 15 years, the presumed alimony term under the law is up to 80 percent of the number of months of marriage.
  • For couples ending a long-term marriage of 20 years or more, alimony presumptively ends at retirement age as defined by the Social Security Act.

Judges still have discretion to award indefinite alimony for long-term marriages, but this should now be more of an exception than the common practice it used to be. Additionally, any calculation of alimony should generally not exceed the recipient's need or 30 to 35 percent of the difference between the parties' gross incomes.

This new law also sets out other term limits that apply for transitional alimony, temporary alimony, rehabilitative alimony and reimbursement alimony. For instance, in the case of some short-term marriages, a judge can order "reimbursement alimony" if one spouse, for instance, put the other through school.

Under this new act, there are many other factors that can affect alimony as well, including:

  • If a payer remarries, the new spouse's income and assets cannot be used as a basis for seeking a modification to an alimony order.
  • Alimony can be suspended, reduced or terminated if the recipient spouse engages in cohabitation with another person for at least three months and alimony ends with the remarriage of the recipient spouse.
  • How child support affects alimony may call for a modification.
  • Health and life insurance payments can affect the general-term alimony amount.
  • An extension beyond the limits stated above will only be granted when a material change can be proven by clear and convincing evidence.

Our experienced lawyers understand how these factors can be used to calculate or modify alimony payments. We will help you with every step of the process and advocate on your behalf during negotiations as well as in court. We understand the many tax, financial and personal issues that the alimony question presents, and our firm will work hard to obtain the optimal result for you.

Modifying Alimony Payments Awarded Prior To The Alimony Reform Act

Alimony that was awarded prior to the passage of the 2011 Alimony Reform Act is not automatically subject to the terms of the new law. Instead, those who have been ordered to pay spousal support must file a complaint for modification according to a timeline set out by this new legislation. For example, those who were married for five years or less, or those who will reach retirement age before March 1, 2015, may seek a modification at any time. Those who were married for longer must wait before filing for modification. Our attorneys will let you know what your eligibility status is.

Contact Our Firm

If you have questions about this new alimony legislation or want to ensure your case is handled correctly using these new guidelines, contact Koiles Pratt Family Law Group, today by calling at 978-744-7774.