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How To Avoid Alimony In Massachusetts

Strategy : End The Marriage Asap

How does Alimony work in Massachusetts | Divorce Attorneys Mansfield, Massachusetts

Your state is going to determine the amount of alimony that a spouse pays. However, one factor that states often consider is the overall length of the marriage. Typically, the longer a person is in a marriage, the more likely it is that you will be faced with higher alimony payments. If you know your marriage is not going to last, consider ending it as quickly as you can. Stretching it out longer and longer just means more emotional pain and longer lasting alimony payments.

Can Alimony Last Beyond A Spouses Death

General term alimony and other forms of alimony in Massachusetts end at the death of either spouse, although the payor might be required to pay for life insurance or another form of security that pays the recipient in the event of their death. However, spouses can form a contractual agreement that extends alimony beyond the payors death. For example, the payor might be required to establish a trust to pay the recipient alimony if the payor passes away before the recipient.

Can A Court Force Me To Pay Alimony

Yes, a family court can order you to pay alimony even if you disagree with the decision. A judge will decide whether alimony is appropriate based on the circumstances. The judge can then order you to pay a certain amount of alimony either indefinitely or for a specific period. If you refuse to pay despite the court order, your ex-spouse can pursue enforcement actions against you including garnishing your wages, freezing your bank accounts, or even jail time.

Read Also: How To Sue For Alimony

How Income Changes Can Affect Alimony

Generally, in Massachusetts, alimony orders should not exceed 30 to 35% of the difference between each spouses gross incomes. Consequently, if one of the spouses income changes, he or she can petition for a modification of alimony. When circumstances such as a change in income occur, you have a right to go back to court to seek to modify your agreement.

Massachusetts New Alimony Law

Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Worksheet

Alimony is a highly-charged word. Discussions of alimony generally get the strongest reactions from both men and women when working out the terms of a divorce. Believe it or not, its generally more contentious than custody disputes over children or property division.

Men are understandably concerned. They are no longer entitled to receive their wifes love or services but still must pay. To add insult to injury, sometimes alimony is payable even when the wife had decided to end the marriage. And men are understandably concerned about the negative effect of alimony on the wifes future motivation to make her own living.

On the other hand, married women have often experienced significant decreased opportunities in their careers. They often have made their top priority to take care of the family, home, children, and husband to be a homemaker. Thats why some commentators view a marriage as an economic partnership, with the right to alimony payments as essentially a payment of the marital partnerships income interest.

Massachusetts former alimony laws. Formerly, Massachusetts had very typical alimony laws. The issue of alimony was very fact-driven and based on notions of equity. Many factors were analyzed, among them, age, opportunity for future acquisition, length of marriage, contribution to marriage , conduct, and employability.

The Alimony Reform Act was passed by the legislature in 2011, with an effective date of March 1, 2012.

Amount of Alimony.

Recommended Reading: How To Avoid Paying Alimony In Virginia

Child Support And Alimony Under The Alimony Reform Act: A Muddy Picture

After addressing reciprocal orders for child support and alimony, the Appeals Court in Calvin C. v. Amelia A. takes the somewhat unusual step of announcing how Massachusetts Courts should calculate child support and alimony in cases in which both forms of support flow to the same party. The Courts willingness to wade into this territory is notable, since questions have surrounded the interplay between alimony and child support since the passage of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, which provides:

When issuing an order for alimony, the court shall exclude from its income calculation . . . gross income which the court has already considered for setting a child support order.

Since 2011, many Massachusetts judges have interpreted the Acts language as essentially “excluding” alimony in cases involving parents with combined incomes of less than $250,000, where the Child Support Guidelines were assumed to consume the first $250,000 in combined income of the parties, leaving no income for an alimony order. The 2018 Child Support Guidelines, which are presently under review, are notably vague on how and when alimony and child support can be ordered in the same case, stating:

All three organizations critiqued the ambiguous manner in which the states Child Support Guidelines address cases in which a parent may be entitled either alimony or child support, or both.

General Term Alimony: How Long

Massachusetts alimony law is clear regarding how long general term alimony must be paid by one spouse to the other. This durational limitation for marriages lasting under twenty years is based on the number of months you were been married: from your date of marriage to the date that the other spouse was served with the complaint for divorce. The amount to time alimony is paid is based on a percentage of the number of months of this calculation, which increases in five-year increments.

  • For a marriage of 5 years or less: the duration for alimony is 50% of the number of months
  • For a marriage of between 5 to 10 years, 60% of the number of months
  • For a marriage of between 10 years to 15 years, 70% the number of months
  • For a marriage of between 15 years to 20 years, 80% the number of months.

For marriages greater than 20 years, alimony will be paid until the full social security retirement age of the payer spouse. Usually, full social security retirement age is between 66 years old and 68 years old. These are presumed duration limitations and can be pierced through by a judge. Of course, an alimony payer in Massachusetts can voluntarily agree to pay alimony for a longer period of time than the law requires.

Also Check: Who Pays Alimony In Divorce

How Alimony Usually Works In Massachusetts

In a Massachusetts divorce case, the spouse who is financially dependent may be entitled to alimony. The amount and duration of these support payments are determined by many factors, including the length of the marriage, the health and age of the separating spouses, the marital lifestyle, each spouses economic contribution and sacrifice to the marriage, and each spouses employability, after the divorce.

Recurring alimony payments mean both spouses will interact with each other on a regular basis, with the spouse paying the alimony continuing to support the spouse who is receiving it. This continued reliance and support can create tension. For example, if the paying spouse wants to make a career change that would slash his or her income, the alimony commitment might prevent him or her from pursuing such a change, while the recipient spouse might have a hard time getting the payments regularly, or in their full amount.

How To Receive Alimony In Massachusetts


Courts cannot grant an award of alimony unless a spouse asks for support. Even then, the court must hold a hearing to determine whether the requesting spouse has an actual need for spousal support and if the other spouse is able to pay. Alimony is awarded in addition to child support, but the amount of child support will be included in the court’s consideration and may result in a lower award for alimony.

If you are in need of financial assistance from your ex-spouse, don’t hesitate to ask for it, but be certain to provide evidence of your need. Massachusetts courts will not prohibit you from receiving what you need or are entitled to from your ex-spouse. Additionally, the amount of the payment awarded is typically 30-35% of the difference between the gross incomes of the parties.

Also Check: Divorce Court Lynn Toler Episodes

Strategy : Have A Judge Evaluate Your Spouses Fitness To Work

After a divorce, a spouse may prefer to remain as a homemaker or stay-at-home parent, even though this causes financial hardship or is not 100% necessary. If your spouse is educated and has the skills to obtain a job that pays well, you can ask a judge to perform a vocational evaluation. It is an objective assessment that provides you with insight into what your spouse can potentially earn by taking a job in their area of knowledge and skills.

Even if a job is not available at the time you go to court, alimony may still be ordered on a temporary basis. This is still preferable to payments that are issued on a long-term basis or indefinitely.

Bear in mind your spouse may just need some space while they work to get on their feet and establish their own household, find a job that pays well, and learn how to live on their own again. Short-term alimony payments will help them along and get them in the right direction faster, especially if they took time off to care for children or help you advance your own career.

What Role Does Adultery Play In A Massachusetts Divorce

Different states take different approaches to divorce. Some states are “no fault” states, meaning that people can get divorced without having any particular reason other than their marriage has broken down and can’t be saved

“Fault-based” states, on the other hand, allow people to get divorced only if they can show that their spouse has committed some kind of wrongdoing, like physical or mental abuse.

Massachusetts takes a compromise position and allows divorce for both fault and no-fault grounds. There are eight basic “grounds” for a divorce:

  • utter desertion
  • chemical dependency
  • cruel and abusive treatment
  • one spouse’s criminal conviction and sentenced to serve five years or more in a correctional facility
  • refusal to provide suitable support and maintenance for the other spouse, and
  • irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

Adultery is a fault-based ground for divorce permitted in Massachusetts. A court will grant a divorce based on adultery if the accusing spouse produces evidence of the affair. Like other “fault” grounds, it’s up to the innocent spouse to prove to the court the guilty spouse’s marital misconduct. If the spouse fails to prove the allegations, the judge could dismiss the case and ask you to refile using the state’s no-fault grounds.

If you’re considering filing a fault divorce, it’s best to speak with an experienced attorney before you file.

Also Check: When Does Alimony End In Nj

Alimony After 201: The Passing Of The Alimony Reform Act

Alimony drastically changed in 2012 when the Alimony Reform Act was passed.

Before 2012, Massachusetts courts used a standardized formula for calculating alimony that factored in things such as spousal age, earning capacity, length of marriage, employability and more. One of the biggest changes the Alimony Reform Act was limiting the duration of alimony, but other factors such as cohabitation, retirement and income changes also affect alimony.

Now, alimony duration has limits that correspond to the length of the marriage:

  • Alimony cannot exceed 50% of the length of the marriage
  • Alimony cannot exceed 60% of the length of the marriage
  • Alimony cannot exceed 70% of the length of the marriage
  • Alimony cannot exceed 80% of the length of the marriage

Other changes included changing alimony at remarriage / cohabitation and termination at retirement, at which point Social Security benefits are received.

How The Court Decides On Alimony

Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Worksheet

Judges look at a few different factors to decide whether and how much alimony to award:

  • How long the marriage was
  • How old the parties are
  • The parties health
  • Both parties income, employment, and employability, including whether they could be employable with reasonable effort and more training, if necessary
  • Both parties economic and non-economic contribution to the marriage
  • The parties way of life during the marriage
  • Each persons ability to continue the way of life they had during the marriage
  • Lost economic opportunity because of the marriage
  • Other factors the court thinks are relevant

Also Check: Can You Get Alimony After Divorce

The Interplay Between Need And The Aras 30

After defining need in terms of the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage, the Young Court immediately moves to resolve the biggest problem with defining need in terms of maintaining the marital lifestyle. Heres the problem: if a former spouses need for alimony means that he or she has the right to maintain the marital lifestyle after the divorce, how can we square this right with this with the 35% cap under the ARA, which gives one spouse 65% of the available income and the other spouse only 35% of the income. The Court skillfully sidesteps this paradox:

Where, as so often happens, the couples collective income is inadequate to allow both spouses to maintain the lifestyle they enjoyed during the marriage after their household is divided in two through divorce, the recipient spouse does not have an absolute right to live a lifestyle to which he or she has been accustomed in a marriage to the detriment of the provider spouse.’ Instead, he judge must consider all the statutory factors and reach a fair balance of sacrifice between the former spouses when financial resources are inadequate to maintain the marital standard of living. The act presumptively provides that the fair balance of sacrifice means that the supporting spouse generally should not be required to pay more than thirty-five per cent of the difference between the parties gross incomes.

Strategy : Prove They Dont Need It

Some spouses who are simply being vindictive seek to gain alimony payments, even if they do not need the money to maintain their standard of living. For example, does your ex have access to a large monetary sum, like a trust fund or stock portfolio? Do they have an inheritance or savings account? If so, them being unemployed may not affect their ability to transition to a single lifestyle. Your ex may not even need an alimony payment to make this lifestyle change.

Be sure to investigate whether or not your spouse has any assets in their name that would keep you from having to make alimony payments. To do this, you may wish to hire a professional forensic accountant to help you track down this asset or assets. While accountants definitely charge a premium for their services, your avoidance of lengthy and costly alimony fees will be well worth the price.

Read Also: Can I Get Alimony After 2 Years Of Marriage

Bright Line And Relative Time Methods Of Valuing The Marital Portion Of A Pension

There are a range of legal methods for valuing and dividing future pension benefits in Massachusetts. See this page for a complete discussion of MA state pension division in divorce. At one end of this range is the 1) the accrued method, and at the other end of the range is 2) the relative time method. Massachusetts is the only state in America that allows either method to be used, and is only one of ten states that allows the bright line method to be used at all. The bright line method is nearly always unfavorable for the alternate payee.

Take the example of a public school teacher who has been married for 17 years and divorces at age 47, when earning $70,000 per year. Using the relative time method of calculating the pension division, the alternate payee , would receive $1473 per month at retirement. Under the bright line method of dividing the pension benefit, the alternate payee would receive only $347 per month at retirement. It is also possible to use a number of division methods that are intermediate between bright line and relative time methods. You can see the calculations and financial outcomes for these various pension division methods in this .pdf. You see can more discussion of the assumptions going into these calculations in this discussion of formulas for MA pension division.

Remember that the alternate payee normally only gets half of the marital portion, as the marital portion belongs to both spouses.

The Marital Lifestyle Vs The Post Marital Lifestyle: How Much Alimony Should A Former Spouse Pay

What is Alimony in Massachusetts

Rather than review the particular details of the trial court case, this blog will focus on capturing portions of the Young opinion that best articulate the issues reviewed in the case. The decision begins with a clear and concise announcement of the Courts rulings:

We conclude that, where the supporting spouse has the ability to pay, the need for support of the recipient spouse under general term alimony is the amount required to enable her to maintain the standard of living she had at the time of the separation leading to the divorce, not the amount required to enable her to maintain the standard of living she would have had in the future if the couple had not divorced. We also conclude that, although there might be circumstances where it is reasonable and fair to award a percentage of the supporting spouses income as general term alimony to the recipient spouse, those circumstances are not present in this case.

Back in March, Attorney Owens previewed the Young decision by focusing on the second issue, so called self-modifying alimony order:

Young appears to on when courts may enter variable or self-adjusting alimony orders when the obligors income arises out of bonuses, commission or equity compensation, such as stock options or RSUs.

Recommended Reading: Can You Get Alimony In Florida

Appeals Court Provides Framework For Simultaneous/parallel Alimony And Child Support Orders

In Calvin C. v. Amelia A., the Appeals Court decisively addressed the question raised by the three advocacy organizations above. The Court explained the framework for ordering simultaneous child support and alimony in cases where parties earn combined income of less than $250,000 in straightforward terms:

e agree that calculating alimony first usually necessitates using the parties’ adjusted, post alimony incomes when calculating child support to avoid running afoul of G. L. c. 208, § 53, this principle typically applies in cases where one spouse is the sole payor of both alimony and child support. . In cases where one spouse pays both child support and alimony, and the parties’ combined income is less than $250,000 the alimony payment should be treated as income available to the recipient for purposes of calculating child support.

Importantly, the Court notes that simultaneous orders for child support and alimony are not automatic, but rather, can only occur f the judge in such a case exercises discretion to calculate alimony first before calculating child support. The need for judicial discretion is especially important in cases where the paying spouse may simply lack the ability to pay both child support and alimony, or when the recipients economic need may not require combined alimony and child support.

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