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What influences alimony orders during a Massachusetts divorce?

On Behalf of | May 28, 2024 | Alimony

Some divorcing couples in Massachusetts have relatively even economic circumstances. They may both enjoy successful careers and can thrive even after the divorce. Other times, one spouse may earn far less than the other. Such scenarios often occur because that spouse makes personal sacrifices for the benefit of the family. They may stay home to take care of aging family members or children. They give up both career advancement opportunities and future earning potential by making those decisions. The spouse who earns less may then request alimony to reduce the strain they experience after the divorce.

What influences the decisions the courts make about alimony in Massachusetts?

Judges look at the length of the marriage

One of the most important considerations about alimony is how long one spouse makes payments to the other. The need of one spouse and their ability to improve their economic circumstances are both considerations, but the judge also looks at how long the marriage lasted. The number of months the couple stayed married determines how long alimony lasts. The courts order alimony for a specific number of months. If the marriage lasted less than five years, the courts typically award alimony for no more than half the duration of the marriage.

For marriages that lasted between five and 10 years, alimony can last for 60% of the duration of the marriage. That increases to 70% for marriages of between 10 and 15 years and 80% for marriages that lasted between 15 and 20 years. Indefinite alimony is typically only an option when someone’s marriage lasted 20 years or more.

Need and ability to pay are also important

When establishing both the duration and the amount of alimony, a Massachusetts family law judge looks at the circumstances of each spouse. Someone’s ability to pay is important, as is the need of the spouse requesting alimony. Generally, the courts can only order alimony that amounts to between 30 and 3% of the difference between the income of the two spouses. Factors including someone’s health and custody arrangements for an adult child with special needs could influence how a judge handles alimony issues in the Massachusetts divorce.

Spouses do always have the option of compromising with one another and setting their own terms for alimony and other aspects of their divorces. Either way, understanding what rules apply to alimony requests in Massachusetts can help people know what to expect when they divorce. Alimony can be frustrating for the spouse who is obligated to pay but may also be necessary for the spouse with less earning potential who needs to rebuild their economic stability.