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Alimony by the Numbers

How much alimony will I need to pay/how much alimony will I receive? If you are contemplating divorce, one of the many issues of concern is alimony. Massachusetts General Laws define alimony as “the periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is economically dependent. “ Although the Probate Court Judges are given discretion to accommodate the many unique circumstances that come before them, the law provides some guidelines.

The types of alimony are; General Term, Rehabilitative, Reimbursement, and Transitional.

General Term Alimony is “the periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is economically dependent.”
The length of marriage is an important factor in the determination of alimony. The statute adds some finite numbers connecting the length of time that General Term Alimony needs to be paid upon of the length of the marriage. For marriages longer than twenty years however, there is no limit on the length of time for which alimony can continue.

  1. For a marriage of five years or less, alimony can only be awarded for a term of 50% of the months of the marriage. For example, in a four-year marriage alimony can only be paid for a term of 24 months.
  2. If the marriage is more than five years up to ten years term is increased to 60% of the months of the marriage.
  3. If the marriage is more than ten years up to fifteen years the length increases to 70% of the months of the marriage.
  4. If the marriage is more than fifteen years up to twenty years the length increases to 80% of the months of the marriage.

Clearly, the length of the marriage is an important factor in determining alimony. The statute provides a method for determining the length of the marriage. It begins on the date of the legal marriage and ends on the date of a service of complaint or petition of divorce is filed in the Massachusetts court, or in another court with jurisdiction. The court can increase the length to include an economic marital partnership that began with cohabitation prior to the actual marriage date. The statute does allow the court to deviate from the time limits with written findings in the “interest of justice”.

Rehabilitative Alimony is “the periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is expected to become economically self-sufficient by a predicted time, such as, without limitation, reemployment; completion of job training; or receipt of a sum due from the payor spouse under a judgment.” The length of the marriage is not a factor in determining rehabilitative alimony.

Reimbursement Alimony is “the periodic or one-time payment of support to a recipient spouse after a marriage of not more than five years to compensate the recipient spouse for economic or noneconomic contribution to the financial resources of the payor spouse, such as enabling the payor spouse to complete an education or job training.” The court has discretion as to how long the Reimbursement Alimony need be paid.

Transitional Alimony is “the periodic or one-time payment of support to a recipient spouse after a marriage of not more than five years to transition the recipient spouse to an adjusted lifestyle or location as a result of the divorce.” Transitional Alimony can only last up to three years.

Unless there are extenuating circumstances, the total alimony amount is not to exceed 30 – 35% of the difference between the parties’ gross income. For example, if one party earns $100,000 per year and the other party earns $60,000 per year they have a difference in gross income of $40,000. The total amount should not exceed 12,000 (30%) – 14,000 ((35%). This sets the cap on how much alimony can be paid annually. As always, however, the court does have discretion if extraordinary circumstances merit a deviation from this amount.

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