In any divorce, a common question divorce attorneys get is “Will I get alimony, and if so, how much?” In Massachusetts this is determined under the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, which is codified at Massachusetts General Laws c. 208 §§48-54. Under the Alimony Reform Act, there are 4 different categories/types of alimony: 1) General Term Alimony; 2) Rehabilitative Alimony; 3) Reimbursement Alimony; and 4) Transitional Alimony.
Under Massachusetts law, the Probate and Family Court must consider several factors to determine: a) whether either spouse is entitled to alimony; b) what type of alimony a spouse is entitled to; and c) how much alimony is a spouse entitled to. These factors are:
- the length of the marriage;
- age of the parties;
- health of the parties;
- income, employment and employability of both parties, including employability through reasonable diligence and additional training, if necessary;
- economic and non-economic contribution of both parties to the marriage;
- marital lifestyle;
- ability of each party to maintain the marital lifestyle;
- lost economic opportunity as a result of the marriage;
- and such other factors as the court considers relevant and material.
Although many of these factors are self-explanatory, the length of a marriage can be somewhat deceiving. Under the Alimony Reform Act, if a couple lived together prior to getting married, that time living together can be added on to the time of the actual marriage.
The length of a marriage can also determine how long alimony will last. For both Reimbursement Alimony and Transitional Alimony, a spouse is eligible to receive these categories of alimony if the length of the marriage is 5 years or less. Similarly, for General Term Alimony, the length of the marriage determines how long this category of alimony will last. For General Term Alimony, the alimony order will last as follows:
- For a marriage of 0-5 years: 50% of the total number of months of the marriage
- For a marriage for 5-10 years: 60% of the total number of months of marriage
- For a marriage of 10-15 years: 70% of the total number of months of marriage
- For a marriage of 15-20 years: 80% of the total number of months of marriage
- For a marriage of 20 years or more: an indefinite length of time.
In addition to determining how long an alimony order will last, it is important to determine how much the order will be. The Alimony Reform Act says that the amount of the alimony order should be no more than 30%-35% of the difference between the parties’ gross incomes. This applies to all categories of alimony, except for Reimbursement Alimony.
There are also factors that can terminate alimony early, such as a recipient spouse cohabitating with a significant other, the death or either spouse, remarriage of the recipient spouse, or some other substantial change in circumstances for either spouse.
However, the analysis is not so simple. All of these factors must be considered together, and if there are also unemancipated children, the amount of child support to be paid is another relevant factor. Alimony is never a guarantee in any divorce, and a spouse should consult with a knowledgeable divorce attorney to determine if alimony will be awarded in his/her divorce.