Worcester Spousal Support & Maintenance Attorneys

When spouses end their marriage, they must decide how to address the issue of alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance. Alimony is intended to help divorced husbands and wives pay their monthly expenses, enjoy the standards of living they experienced during the marriage, and adjust to the financial realities of a single-income household. However, spouses are not automatically entitled to receive this support. There are set rules for determining the amount and duration of alimony, and some spouses cannot afford to make the payments demanded of them. Whether you are in need of spousal maintenance or you are being asked to pay for it, SederLaw can serve you.

The Different Types of Alimony in Massachusetts

As a general rule, spousal support is not automatically awarded. There must be both a demonstrated need by the spouse who is seeking support and the ability of the other spouse to pay it. Four types of alimony are recognized in our state:

General term. This is the most common type, a form of regular monthly support paid to a financially dependent spouse. The 2012 Alimony Reform Act established the following time limits to general term alimony, which are based on the length of the marriage. 

Length of marriageDuration of alimony
Up to 5 years No more than 50% of the length of the marriage
5 to 10 years No 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 years No more than 80% of the length of the marriage
20+ years Whatever the judge believes to be fair

Judges can deviate from the above guidelines if doing so is in the interests of justice, but any deviations must be supported by written findings.

Rehabilitative. Rehabilitative alimony is awarded to a dependent spouse who is expected to be able to support themselves by a predicted time. The court will assume that, by some date, the spouse will become financially independent.

Reimbursement. Spouses often make sacrifices for the benefit of the marriage, like foregoing a career to help advance the other spouse’s career. Reimbursement alimony is designed to compensate the spouses who do this and is available for marriages that have lasted up to five years.

Transitional. After the marriage ends, a former spouse must adjust to a new way of life. Transitional alimony helps them make that adjustment. The money may be used, for example, to help the ex-spouse start over somewhere new. It is available for marriages of up to five years.

Factors That Courts Consider in Awarding Alimony

To determine the type, amount, and length of alimony payments, Massachusetts judges will consider these factors:

  • Duration of the marriage
  • Ages of the spouses
  • The health of the spouses
  • The income, career, and employability of both spouses
  • Whether additional job training may be needed to become employable
  • Contributions (economic and non-economic) that both spouses made to the marriage
  • The spouses’ lifestyles during the marriage and whether they can be maintained
  • Any economic opportunities that either spouse gave up because of the marriage
  • Any other relevant factors

The amount of alimony payments will usually not exceed the recipient spouse’s need, or 30-35% of the difference between the parties’ gross incomes.

When Do Alimony Payments End?

The conditions that terminate alimony are based on the type of alimony awarded:

General term alimony terminates upon:

  • The remarriage of the recipient spouse
  • The death of either spouse
  • Cohabitation of the recipient spouse (explained below)
  • The supporting spouse reaching full retirement age
  • Reaching the aforementioned statutory time limits

Rehabilitative alimony terminates upon:

  • The remarriage of the recipient spouse
  • A specific, predetermined event taking place
  • The death of either spouse
  • Five years

Reimbursement alimony terminates upon:

  • The death of either spouse
  • A specific date

Transitional alimony terminates upon:

  • The recipient’s spouse dying
  • A specific date, but no more than three years from the divorce date

What is Cohabitation and How Could it Affect Alimony?

General term alimony (the most commonly awarded type) will be suspended, reduced, or terminated if the recipient spouse begins cohabitating in a romantic relationship with another person. The supporting spouse must prove that the recipient spouse has maintained a common household with this romantic interest for at least three continuous months.

Maintaining a common household means sharing a primary residence with that person, regardless of whether other people also live there. In examining whether the recipient spouse is maintaining a common household, and therefore cohabitating with someone else, the judge will consider such evidence as:

  • Statements made to others that acknowledge the cohabitation
  • The economic interdependence of the cohabitating persons
  • Whether one person is economically dependent on the other
  • Behavior that demonstrates a cohabitating lifestyle
  • Whether cohabitation benefits either individual
  • Whether the individuals have a community reputation of cohabitating
  • Any other factors determined to be relevant

Alimony that is suspended, reduced, or terminated on the basis of cohabitation can be reinstated if the cohabitation ends. But the total length of alimony cannot extend beyond the original termination date.

Can Alimony Be Modified?

Although reimbursement and transitional alimony cannot be modified, general-term and rehabilitative alimony can. A spouse who seeks to modify alimony must prove that a material change in circumstances has occurred since the original alimony order was entered. A few factors that may support a modification request are:

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

Contact Our Worcester Spousal Support & Maintenance Attorney

If you are in need of alimony or your husband or wife has asked you to pay it, your next best step is to hire experienced legal counsel. We know Massachusetts laws and court decisions concerning alimony, including how to establish, modify, and terminate payments. Let us seek the best possible outcome for your spousal maintenance case. Give our Family Law & Probate team a call today.

Practice Area Team