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How Long Must I Have Been Married to Receive Alimony in MA?


The prospect of divorce can upend not only your emotional equilibrium but also your financial security. Part of the process of divorcing your spouse involves deciding how to split your assets and debts and, in some cases, whether one spouse will receive spousal support or alimony.

While these decisions are being made, it's natural to feel stressed by the uncertainty surrounding your financial future. For many people, alimony can play a critical role in ensuring financial stability during this difficult transition.

Massachusetts Alimony Laws

Alimony is a financial support payment made by one spouse to the other during or after a divorce, with the primary aim of ensuring that both parties can maintain a similar standard of living to what they enjoyed during the marriage. It's important to note that alimony is separate from child support and is intended to provide for the needs of the spouse, rather than the children.

The Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act, enacted in 2011, provides guidelines for determining the amount and duration of alimony payments based on various factors.

Those factors include:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Income and earning capacity of both spouses
  • Standard of living established during the marriage
  • Contributions to the marriage (financial and non-financial)
  • Age and health of both spouses
  • Economic and non-economic contributions to the marital estate
  • Marital lifestyle
  • Ability of each party to maintain the marital lifestyle
  • Lost economic opportunity as a result of the marriage

The objective is to strike a balance that allows the financially dependent spouse to maintain a semblance of their marital lifestyle while acknowledging the supporting spouse's ability to pay.

Under Massachusetts law, judges have discretion in determining alimony awards, but they must adhere to specific guidelines outlined in the Alimony Reform Act. These guidelines help ensure consistency and fairness in alimony decisions, taking into account the unique circumstances of each case.

It's crucial to remember that alimony is not guaranteed in every divorce; rather, it is awarded based on the court's assessment of each spouse's financial situation and the factors mentioned above.

Massachusetts alimony laws also recognize that the financial circumstances of both spouses may change over time, and therefore, provisions are made for the modification or termination of alimony payments under certain conditions.

For example, if the paying spouse loses their job or experiences a significant decrease in income, they may petition the court for a reduction in alimony payments. Conversely, if the recipient spouse's financial situation improves substantially, the paying spouse may request a modification or termination of their alimony obligation.

Impact of Length of Marriage on Alimony

While the court takes various factors into account when awarding alimony, the duration of the marriage serves as a guiding principle for establishing the length of time for which alimony may be granted. This approach aims to ensure fairness and consistency in alimony decisions while acknowledging that longer marriages typically involve a greater degree of financial interdependence between spouses.

Massachusetts alimony guidelines provide general recommendations for alimony duration based on the length of the marriage.

These guidelines are as follows:

  • Marriages lasting up to 5 years: Alimony duration is up to 50% of the number of months of the marriage.
  • Marriages lasting more than 5 years but less than 10 years: Alimony duration is up to 60% of the number of months of the marriage.
  • Marriages lasting more than 10 years but less than 15 years: Alimony duration is up to 70% of the number of months of the marriage.
  • Marriages lasting more than 15 years but less than 20 years: Alimony duration is up to 80% of the number of months of the marriage.
  • Marriages lasting 20 years or more: The court may award alimony for an indefinite duration.

It's important to note that these guidelines serve as a starting point for determining alimony duration, and the court has the discretion to deviate from these recommendations based on the unique circumstances of each case.

Factors such as the age, health, and financial resources of both spouses, as well as their contributions to the marriage and the marital estate, can influence the court's decision to award alimony for a shorter or longer period than suggested by the guidelines.

Types of Alimony in Massachusetts

Massachusetts recognizes four distinct types of alimony, each tailored to address specific situations and needs that may arise during or after a divorce. Understanding the differences between these types of alimony can help you better navigate the divorce process and determine which form of support may be most appropriate for your circumstances.

General Term Alimony

This is the most common form of alimony awarded in Massachusetts. General term alimony is intended to provide regular financial support to a spouse who is financially dependent on the other spouse. Payments are typically made on a monthly basis and can last for a duration determined by the length of the marriage, with longer marriages resulting in more extended alimony periods.

Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony is designed to provide temporary financial support to a spouse who needs time to become self-sufficient following a divorce. This type of alimony is typically awarded when the recipient spouse requires additional education, job training, or work experience to re-enter the workforce and become financially independent.

Rehabilitative alimony is granted for a specific period, usually not exceeding five years, and terminates when the recipient spouse becomes self-supporting or upon the occurrence of a predetermined event.

Reimbursement Alimony

This form of alimony is awarded in cases where one spouse made significant financial or other contributions to the other spouse's education, career advancement, or earning capacity during the marriage. Reimbursement alimony is intended to compensate the contributing spouse for their investment in the other spouse's success. It is typically awarded as a lump sum payment or over a short period in cases where the marriage lasted less than five years.

Transitional Alimony

Transitional alimony is intended to assist a spouse in adjusting to a new lifestyle or living situation following a divorce. It is often awarded in cases where the marriage was relatively short (usually less than five years) and where the recipient spouse needs temporary financial support to establish a new household or cover expenses related to their transition to single life. Transitional alimony is granted for a specific duration, typically not exceeding three years.

Each type of alimony serves a unique purpose, and multiple forms of alimony may be awarded simultaneously in some cases, depending on the specific circumstances of the divorcing couple. It is essential to consult with an experienced divorce attorney to better understand which type of alimony makes the most sense in your circumstances.

How Percy Law Group, PC Can Help

Navigating the complexities of alimony laws in Massachusetts can be challenging, but there are steps you can take to improve your chances of receiving alimony as part of your divorce settlement. By being proactive and well-prepared, you can present a strong case for financial support to the court and increase the likelihood of securing the alimony you need to maintain your standard of living.

A knowledgeable attorney will be familiar with the nuances of Massachusetts alimony laws and can help you navigate the legal process, ensuring that your rights and interests are protected. They can also assist in negotiating the terms of your divorce settlement, including alimony payments, and represent your best interests in court if necessary.

At Percy Law Group, PC, our experienced divorce lawyers can help make sure that your rights are protected throughout the divorce process. We understand how emotionally taxing a divorce can be, and we are here to provide sound legal advice and assistance every step of the way.

Contact us online or call us at (508) 206-9900 for a consultation.