Will I Have to Pay Spousal Support in Massachusetts?

When you face divorce in Massachusetts, you might be concerned about the need to pay spousal support. Known under Massachusetts law as alimony, spousal support refers to one spouse’s legal obligation to provide financial support to the other spouse after the divorce. 

Who Qualifies for Spousal Support in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, alimony can be awarded to either spouse. The Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of 2011 lays out a number of specific factors a judge will consider when determining if a spouse qualifies for support. 

These factors include: 

  • How long the marriage lasted
  • The age, income, and health conditions of each spouse
  • Lost opportunity of a spouse due to the marriage
  • Current employment of each spouse, and any training needed to find employment
  • Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage (financial, time, services, etc.)
  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • The presence or absence of children within the marriage

Depending on these factors, either spouse may qualify for alimony. For example, if one spouse gives up their career so they can move across the country to help the other spouse pay their way through school, this could be a factor that the court considers to warrant alimony. 

How Much Alimony Will You Pay?

There is no specific formula for determining how much you will have to pay for spousal support, but the court will weigh the above factors in setting an amount. Massachusetts law does limit the amount you may have to pay out in many cases, specifying that stating that alimony “should generally not exceed the recipient’s need.” Alternatively, spousal support should not exceed 35 percent of the difference between the income earned by each spouse. 

Another factor that may influence your alimony payout is child support. If the court orders both alimony and child support, the amount of child support paid is deducted from the payer’s income before alimony is considered. So, if you make $60,000 a year and are ordered to pay $10,000 a year in child support, the court will calculate alimony based on a $50,000 income. If your income after child support is too low to pay alimony, the court will not order you to pay it. 

How Long Does Alimony Continue in Massachusetts?

Generally, the duration of alimony payments under the Alimony Reform Act is based on the length of your marriage. 

For marriages lasting five years or less, you will usually pay alimony for no more than 50 percent of the length of the marriage. So, if your marriage lasted for four years, you would pay alimony no more than two years. 

Here are some other guidelines to determine how long your alimony will continue:

  • For marriages lasting 5 to 10 years, no greater than 60 percent 
  • For marriages lasting 10 to 15 years, no greater than 70 percent
  • For marriages lasting 15 to 20 years, no greater than 80 percent

If your marriage has lasted longer than 20 years, the court has the choice to order alimony for an “indefinite length of time.” However, the Alimony Reform Act generally does not allow alimony payments beyond the beginning of retirement.

Contact an Experienced Divorce Lawyer in Massachusetts Today

If you are facing divorce in Massachusetts and want to know more about spousal support, contact the divorce lawyers of Koiles Pratt. We are happy to help answer your questions and guide you through the divorce process to help reach your objectives. To get started, contact us at (978) 744-7774.

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