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Massachusetts leads the pack in alimony payments

There are many complex and emotional issues that must be addressed during the course of a divorce. While each of these issues comes with its own difficulties, the most controversial is often alimony. Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a monthly payment made by the higher income spouse to the lower income spouse. The purpose of alimony payments is to correct any unfair financial consequences that may develop as a result of the divorce.

In Massachusetts the court's power to grant alimony is purely statutory. Under state law the court is allowed to grant alimony to either a husband or a wife according to their needs. In determining how much alimony to award, if any, the court must consider a variety of factors including the length of the marriage, the age, health and well-being of the party, vocational training, employability, all sources of income and the party's conduct during the marriage.

While many states have similar statutes regarding alimony, Massachusetts is currently the only state in the nation that prohibits permanent alimony. The law effectively limiting the duration of alimony payments in Massachusetts was signed by Governor Deval Patrick in 2011. The law not only allows individuals to stop paying alimony when they retire but also limits how long a spouse can receive alimony payments based on the span of the marriage.

While Massachusetts is currently the only state with prohibitions against permanent alimony on the books, a number of other states appear to be following in Massachusetts's footsteps. Florida, for example, recently introduced a bill that would make it the second state to place restrictions against life long spousal support payments. How a party views such restrictions on alimony generally depends on which side of the economic latter that the person stands.

Source: Fox Business, "Florida Bill Would Limit Spousal Support, Will the Trend Spread?" Kate Rogers, April 24, 2013

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