Westborough Spousal Support/Maintenance Attorney

couple sitting on a couch looking upset over alimony

Alimony, sometimes called spousal support or maintenance, helps divorced husbands and wives continue to enjoy the standards of living they enjoyed during marriage, adjust to a single-income household, and make ends meet. However there are limits to the amount and duration of alimony, and many spouses are asked to make payments they simply cannot afford. Regardless of which side of an alimony case you find yourself on, SederLaw’s Family Law & Probate team can represent you.

What Types of Alimony Are There?

In Massachusetts, there are four different types of alimony:

General term. The most common type, general alimony is regular support paid to one former spouse who is financially dependent on the other. The 2012 Alimony Reform Act sets the following time limits to general term alimony, based on the length of the marriage. 

Length of marriage Duration of AlimonyDuration of alimony
Up to 5 yearsNo more than 50% of the length of the marriage
5 to 10 yearsNo more than 60% of the length of the marriage
10 to 15 years No more than 70% of the length of the marriage
15 to 20 yearsNo more than 80% of the length of the marriage
20+ yearsWhatever amount of time the judge believes is fair

Although rare, a judge can deviate from the above guidelines if doing so is necessary in the interests of justice. Deviations must be supported by written findings.

Rehabilitative. The objective of this type of alimony is to financially assist a dependent spouse until he or she can become self-sufficient. In awarding rehabilitative alimony the court assumes that, by some future date, the spouse will become financially independent.

Reimbursement. Spouses often make contributions to the other spouse during the marriage, which may be economic or non-economic in nature. Reimbursement alimony compensates the spouses who do so and is available for marriages of up to five years.

Transitional. The goal of transitional alimony is to help a former spouse adjust to life after the marriage ends. The money may be used, for example, to help the ex-spouse settle into a new area. It is available for marriages of up to five years.

What Factors Does a Court Consider in Awarding Alimony?

In deciding the type, amount, and duration of alimony, Massachusetts judges take such factors into consideration as:

  • How long the marriage lasted
  • How old the spouses are
  • The health of the spouses
  • Both spouses’ income and employment situations
  • Both spouses’ employability, including whether additional job training may be needed
  • The contributions (economic and non-economic) both spouses made to the marriage
  • Both spouses’ lifestyles during the marriage and whether they can maintain them
  • Any economic opportunities either spouse gave up because of the marriage
  • Any other factors the judge believes are relevant

The amount of alimony should generally not exceed the recipient’s need or 30-35% of the disparity between the parties’ gross incomes. However, not all sources of income are included in the spousal support calculation. An example is gross income which the court already considered in setting child support, which is excluded.

When Will My Alimony End?

The way in which spousal maintenance terminates depends on the type:

General term alimony terminates upon:

  • The receiving spouse remarrying
  • Either spouse dying
  • Reaching the time limits mentioned above
  • The receiving spouse beginning to cohabitate with someone (explained below)
  • The paying spouse reaching full retirement age

Rehabilitative alimony terminates upon:

  • The receiving spouse remarrying
  • A specific, set event taking place
  • Either spouse dying
  • Five years
  • Reimbursement alimony terminates upon:
  • Either spouse dying
  • A specific date

Transitional alimony terminates upon:

  • The receiving spouse dying
  • A specific date, but not longer than three years from the divorce date

What is Cohabitation and How May It Affect Alimony?

Under Massachusetts law, general term alimony (the most commonly awarded type) shall be suspended, reduced, or terminated if the spouse receiving the support starts cohabitating with another person. The paying spouse must prove that the receiving spouse has maintained a common household with someone for at least three continuous months.

To maintain a common household with someone means to share a primary residence with that person, regardless of whether other individuals also reside there. A judge considering whether a receiving spouse is maintaining a common household and therefore cohabitating with someone else will look at such evidence as:

  • Verbal or written statements made to others acknowledging the cohabitation
  • Whether the cohabitating persons are economically interdependent
  • Whether one cohabitating person is economically dependent on the other
  • Exhibiting behavior that furthers a cohabitating lifestyle
  • Whether cohabitation benefits either party
  • Whether the individuals have a reputation in the community of cohabitating
  • Any other relevant factors

Alimony that is suspended, reduced, or terminated due to cohabitation can be reinstated if the cohabitation ends. However, the length of alimony cannot extend past the original termination date.

How Can Alimony Be Modified?

Although general terms and rehabilitative alimony can be modified, reimbursement and transitional alimony cannot. A spouse wishing to modify alimony must show that a material change in circumstances has taken place since the prior alimony order was entered. Some factors that may support modification include:

  • Cohabitation
  • Remarriage
  • A job loss
  • A decrease in job salary
  • For rehabilitative alimony, evidence that the receiving spouse tried and failed to become self-sufficient

Contact Our Westborough Spousal Support/Maintenance Attorney

Are you seeking alimony, or is your spouse seeking alimony from you? If so, it’s time to retain skilled legal counsel. Our firm understands Massachusetts domestic laws concerning alimony and we can handle everything from establishing an initial order to modifying and terminating support. Reach out and connect with our Family Law & Probate team now.

Practice Area Team