Alimony in Massachusetts
On September 26, 2011, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a new bill into law: An Act Reforming Alimony in the Commonwealth. This new law substantially changed the way alimony is determined and calculated. It applies to all alimony judgments entered on March 1, 2012 or later. It also established 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 are diligent to stay up-to-date as the laws change, and we are ready to help you evaluate your alimony situation to determine what is right as expressed through these recent legislative updates. In many divorces, alimony brings out strong emotions and disagreement. We are prepared to advocate on your behalf while representing your interests in or out of court.
How Alimony Is Calculated
This new law ended the common practice of Massachusetts family court judges awarding alimony as a permanent entitlement to last a lifetime for a marriage of any duration. More importantly, this is the first time formal guidelines had been spelled out concerning calculation of alimony payments. This new formula is based on the length of the marriage and sets term limits for alimony. Our family law attorneys can help you prepare a petition or defense in support of an appropriate alimony order taking these limits into account:
- If the marriage lasted five years or less, the presumed alimony term under the law is up to 50% of the number of months of marriage.
- If the marriage was 5-10 years, the presumed alimony term under the law is up to 60% of the number of months of marriage.
- For marriages between 10 and 15 years long, the presumed alimony term under the law is up to 70% of the number of months of marriage.
- If you were married for 15 to 20 years, the presumed alimony term under the law is up to 80% 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 the discretion to award indefinite alimony for long-term marriages, but this should now be an exception more 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% of the difference between the gross income of the higher-earning and the lesser-earning spouse.
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 example, put the other through school.
Under this new act, factors besides income that may affect alimony include:
- Cohabitation with another person for at least three months
- Child support orders
- Health and life insurance payments
- Material change proven by clear and convincing evidence
Our experienced family lawyers understand how these factors can be used to calculate or modify alimony payments. We will advocate on your behalf during negotiations and litigation. We seek optimal results for our clients through our understanding of the many tax-related and financial issues that alimony presents.
Modifying Alimony Payments Awarded Prior To The Alimony Reform Act
Alimony that was awarded before 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. Our attorneys will assess your eligibility for a modification and form a strategy accordingly.
Experienced Family Law Attorneys to Assist You with Alimony
If you have questions about this new Massachusetts alimony legislation or want to ensure your case is handled correctly using these new alimony guidelines, contact us today or call us at 978-744-7774.