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How Retirement Affects Alimony in Massachusetts

On Behalf of | Sep 9, 2021 | Alimony |

One of the most difficult elements in any divorce is settling financial issues such as alimony. Although the party with greater earning potential may be expected to provide support to the other spouse for a time, the duration of alimony payments can be affected by many factors. How does retirement affect spousal support obligations in Massachusetts?

Reforms in the law now give retirement much more of an impact on alimony than in the past. However, the individual circumstances still play a role in determining whether a spouse who has reached retirement age must continue paying spousal support. 

Massachusetts Alimony Requirements

Massachusetts state law provides clear limits on the maximum duration of alimony payments for couples married 20 years or less. For those married more than 20 years, however, courts may require support payments to continue indefinitely.

In early 2012, the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act made several changes to spousal support requirements. One of the most notable alterations is the provision generally specifying that alimony orders terminate when the payor reaches “full retirement age.” The age of retirement is based on Social Security guidelines, currently set between age 66 and 67. 

Does Retirement Affect Alimony?

Retirement itself could affect alimony because it could constitute a material change in circumstances for the ex-spouse paying alimony. However, the critical factor under the Reform Act is based on age alone. 

Before the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act, payors needed to file a complaint for alimony modification if they sought to change or terminate alimony based on retirement. Now, the burden has effectively shifted so that an ex-spouse who wants to receive alimony after the payor has reached retirement age must prove to the court why spousal support is appropriate under the circumstances. The presumption is that alimony will cease once the payor reaches the designated age.

Statutory law is not entirely clear on the factors that provide good cause for deviating from the automatic termination of alimony at retirement age. However, court precedent suggests that judges could consider factors such as: 

  • Advanced age, illness, or unusual health situations
  • Tax considerations for both parties
  • Health insurance availability and costs
  • Unearned income–such as interest, capital gains, etc.
  • Histories of mental or physical abuse

Because the courts have not ruled definitively on the grounds for extending alimony obligations, both those seeking alimony and those who may be asked to pay alimony should consider working with a divorce lawyer to develop a list of substantiated reasons to support their position. One issue where courts have ruled decisively is that the provision terminating alimony at retirement age only applies to couples divorced after the Alimony Reform Act took effect. 

The Experienced Divorce Team at Koiles Pratt Could Assist with Alimony Issues

The bottom line is that reaching retirement age could signal the end of alimony requirements for the paying party. But there are many factors that the courts might consider if the ex-spouse receiving alimony requests payments be made after that time. The dedicated trusted legal team at Koiles Pratt Family Law Group understand how courts approach these situations and they will fight to help you obtain your objectives.

For questions related to your alimony case, schedule a consultation today.