Alimony Reform in Massachusetts

On March 1, alimony reform, in process since 1974, became law in the State of Massachusetts, evolving the payment of alimony in a divorce from the “one size fits all” model criticized by many to a more flexible approach with formulas for calculating alimony payments and creating four categories of alimony.

As it turns out under the new alimony reform law, actually fewer people will be receiving alimony. No alimony will be awarded in Massachusetts if child support is ordered and the combined income of the divorcing parties is less than $250,000.00. This is a major change from previous Massachusetts law, where alimony and child support were awarded together. Under the new law, most alimony awards will end by the time the recipient reaches age 67. The old law did not have a termination date – unless the parties agreed to a specific termination. The new alimony reform law imposes termination dates on most existing alimony awards. The law permits lifetime alimony for marriages that lasted more than 20 years, but all other marriages have a formula for the length of alimony awards.

Here is how alimony duration is decided under the new formulas:

  • Long Term marriages (greater than 20 years): Alimony will end at the age of retirement as defined by the United States Social Security Act (age 65)Marriages of 5 years or less: The maximum alimony term is 50% of the number of months of marriage
  • Marriages of 10 years or less, but greater than 5 years: The maximum alimony term is 60% of the number of months of marriage
  • Marriages of 15 years or less, but greater than 10 years: The maximum alimony term is 70% of the number of months of marriage
  • Marriages of 20 years or less, but greater than 10 years: The maximum alimony term is 80% of the number of months of marriage

Four Categories of Alimony

In Massachusetts, under the Alimony Reform law of 2012, there are four categories identified and defined.

  •  General Term Alimony  is simply a periodic payment of support to one spouse to another.

For marriages of five years or less the following types of alimony may be applied:

  • Rehabilitative alimony is to support a recipient spouse who is expected to become self sufficient within a specific time frame, such as after job training or re-employment.
  • Reimbursement alimony is to compensate a spouse for assistance in enabling another spouse to obtain a degree or special employment training.
  • Transitional alimony is for the purpose of enabling a spouse to transition to a new lifestyle or location due to the divorce.
  • Rehabilitative, Reimbursement and Transitional alimony are all defined as periodic or one time payments, considered after a marriage of five years or less.  They are all seen as a means to an end and for the particular purpose of enabling a spouse a short period of time to become independent.


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