The New Alimony Reform Law
A new Alimony law became effective March 1, 2012, and made significant changes to alimony in Massachusetts. Here is a summary of some of the new provisions.
Four Types of Alimony
The Amount of Alimony
The new law sets a range within which the judge may set alimony: generally (a) the recipient’s need, or (b) 30% to 35% of the disparity of income.
“Need” is determined on a case by case basis, but generally means if the dependent spouse can’t meet the necessities of life on his or her income, that’s the need.
Example: Husband earns $1,600 per week gross; Wife earns $600. The disparity is $1,000. Alimony would presumptively be between $300 and $350 (30-35% of $1,000). However, this is subject to adjustment based on actual need; and the Deviation Factors below.
In some circumstances, the Judge has discretion to exceed these guidelines (either upward or downward) but only in truly unusual cases and based upon written findings.
The Duration of Alimony
Type of Alimony Maximum Duration
Rehabilitative Alimony Not more than 5 years
Transitional Alimony Not more than 3 years
Reimbursement Alimony Not specified, but probably intended for very short terms
General Term Alimony See Chart Below
Duration of General Term Alimony
Length of Marriage Duration of General Term Alimony
5 years or less 50% of length of marriage
More than 5 years but less than 10 60% of length of marriage
More than 10 years but less than 15 70% of length of marriage
More than 15 years but less than 20 80% of length of marriage
More than 20 years Indefinite, but limited by the factors below
Mechanically, to determine the duration of alimony, the statute requires the calculation to be based on the length of marriage in months. Thus, a marriage of 12-1/2 years would result in presumptive alimony for 10 years, calculated as follows: 12-1/2 years = 150 month; times 80% = 120 months, or ten years.
General Term Alimony also ends upon:
- The remarriage of the recipient;
- The death of the recipient;
- The death of the payor (yes, in the past, alimony was payable even after you were dead!);
- The cohabitation of the recipient spouse with another person;
- The payor reaching normal full retirement age.
The judge is permitted to deviate from the type and duration of alimony in particular circumstances, including:
- Advanced age; chronic illness; or unusual health circumstances of either party;
- Tax considerations applicable to the parties;
- Whether the payor spouse is providing health insurance and the cost of heath insurance for the recipient spouse (a reduction may of alimony may be warranted);
- Whether the payor spouse has been ordered to secure life insurance for the benefit of the recipient spouse and the cost of such insurance (a reduction may of alimony may be warranted);
- Sources and amounts of unearned income, including capital gains, interest and dividends, annuity and investment income from assets that were not allocated in the parties’ divorce;
- Significant premarital cohabitation that included economic partnership or marital separation of significant duration, each of which the court may consider in determining the length of the marriage;
- A party’s inability to provide for his or her own support by reason of physical or mental abuse by the payor;
- A party’s inability to provide for his or her own support by reason of a party’s deficiencies of property, maintenance or employment opportunities; and
- Upon written findings, any other factor that the court deems relevant and material.