How important is alimony in a Massachusetts divorce?

by | Aug 17, 2021 | Divorce

Marriage is meant to be a partnership. Like any partnership, sometimes it does not work out. For Massachusetts couples who have decided that they can no longer maintain their marriage and divorce is in the offing, there are many issues that must be decided. In a best-case scenario, the sides will be amicable and could potentially use negotiation with a collaborative divorce. This can settle their lingering concerns and allow them to move on without rancor. Still, regardless of the circumstances, there are basics to remember including the type of alimony and how long it typically lasts. For people who are hoping to move forward happily after a divorce, alimony should be understood.

What types of alimony are available?

Alimony is not a single entity or a one size fits all. There are four types of alimony that can be awarded in a case. They are: general term, rehabilitative, reimbursement and transitional. Because people will have various lives, goals, financial needs and more, the individual case will be scrutinized to determine which category fits best. For general term alimony, a spouse who was reliant on the other spouse for financial support is not expected to self-support as soon as the marriage is concluded. There will be alimony for a certain amount of time. There are several factors that are considered. A fundamental part is how long the marriage lasted. Longer marriages might require a lengthier term for alimony.

Rehabilitative alimony will be paid to a former spouse who is expected to be able to support him or herself at some point. An example is a person wants to go back to school to complete an unfinished degree or training course. That will help their earning power in the future, but it can be complicated to pay for the everyday necessities and take care of children while simultaneously attending school. This can be addressed through alimony. It will likely benefit the obligor as it could limit the duration for which alimony needs to be paid.

Reimbursement alimony is generally limited to people who have had a marriage of a short duration of five years or less. In many marriages, one spouse supported the other while that person went to school, built a business or acquired skills to enhance their earning capability. A spouse who supported and helped pay for the tuition of a college student spouse can expect some form of restitution should the marriage break up and the supported spouse has achieved a level of success based on that support.

Finally, there is transitional alimony in which the marriage did not last longer than five years and the primary objective is to help the supported spouse become acclimated to a new lifestyle after the marriage. The sheer nature of the term “transitional” implies that it is not going to be paid for the long-term.

The length of the marriage and duration of alimony

In Massachusetts, there are percentages that dictate how long alimony lasts depending on the duration of the marriage. For those married less than five years, the alimony cannot be ordered for longer than half the duration of the marriage. A two-year marriage would be limited in alimony to one year. For marriages that lasted 10 years or less, it is 60%; for 15 years or less, it is 70%; and for more than 20-year marriages the judge can decide to award alimony indefinitely with fairness the objective.

From either perspective, understanding alimony is imperative

In a divorce, alimony is not meant to be a reward for the person who receives it, nor is it a punishment for the former spouse paying it. It is designed to provide for the spouse who needs it. Every situation is different and for people who have post-marital goals, it is crucial to know the details of alimony, what a fair amount would be, its duration and more. From the start, it is useful to have assistance to know how the process works, if a negotiated settlement is possible or if the case needs to go to court.