4 categories of alimony each of which has presumptive end dates
General Term Alimony
This is the periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is economically dependent. This provides that the presumptive duration of alimony is a fraction of the duration of the marriage.
- 5 years or less, alimony shall not be longer than 50% of the duration of the marriage
- 5 and 10 years, alimony shall not be longer than 60% of the duration of the marriage
- 10 and 15 years, alimony shall not be longer than 70% of the duration of the marriage
- 15 and 20 years, alimony shall not be longer than 80% of the duration of the marriage
- 20 years or more, alimony can be for an indefinite length of time.
However, alimony shall terminate when the obligor is eligible for full social security retirement benefits, or remarriage of the recipient.
Alimony shall be suspended, reduced, or terminated upon the cohabitation of the recipient for at least 3 months.
One-time or periodic payment of support of not more than 3 years after a marriage of not more than 5 years to transition the recipient to an adjusted lifestyle or location as a result of the divorce. This is not modifiable.
This is support to a recipient who is expected to become economically self-sufficient by a predicted time of no more than 5 years.
This is periodic or one-time payment of support after a marriage of not more than 5 years to compensate the recipient for economic and non-economic contribution to the payor spouse such as enabling the payor spouse to complete an education program. This is not modifiable.
Factors to consider:
In determining the appropriate form of alimony and setting the amount and duration, the court shall consider:
- Marriage length
- Ages of the parties
- Health of the parties
- Income, employment and employability of the parties including employability through reasonable diligence and additional training
- Economic and non-economic contributions 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
- Other factors the court deems material and relevant
Rebutting the presumption
The duration of alimony in the statute is presumptive. The presumption can be rebutted and a different order can be entered with a higher degree of proof. Your lawyer would need to propose findings of fact for the court to issue in the event that you are seeking to rebut a presumption in the statute.
Amount of Alimony
The Massachusetts alimony statute was drafted prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) which changed the tax treatment of alimony from taxable to the recipient and deductible to the obligor to a tax free payment under federal tax law. Alimony is still taxable/deductible for state tax purposes. The statute provides that the amount of alimony should not exceed the recipient’s need or 30 to 35% of the difference between the parties’ gross incomes at the time of the order. After the TCJA judges are guided by financial experts to lower the percentage to allocate the net after tax payment similarly to that of the pre TCJA percentages.
Can you change existing alimony orders of indefinite duration? If you have an alimony ordered prior to 2012 when judges did not have the power to order a termination date, your case may be eligible for modification of the duration of alimony. Whether you are a recipient or an obligor, you need to be aware of this potential to modify your alimony order. An existing alimony order that exceeds the durational limit in the alimony reform statute can be modified without the need to show a material change in circumstances unless there is an agreement that the term of alimony is not modifiable or “survives”.