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Massachusetts Spousal Support & Alimony Frequently Asked Questions ( FAQ )

Thank you for taking the time to visit our website to learn more about alimony in Massachusetts. My team has compiled a list of FAQs along with answers to help our guests, prospects and clients better understand our spousal support laws.

We encourage all of our website guests for their own protection to never act on information obtained from any website without first discussing the specifics of your case with a licensed Massachusetts attorney in good standing practicing in the areas of Divorce and Family Law.

Important Note: The general answers we provide in the areas of Family and Divorce Law are for educational purposes and should not be taken as legal advice for any specific situation.

It's finally here!
Attorney Robyn A. Briatico's software development team just released a powerful calculator that factors in the new alimony reform guidelines and child support. If you would like to use the calculator, please go to the following link: General Term Alimony Calculator

To learn more about the new Alimony Reform Act of 2011 and how it might affect you, please visit www.massachusettsalimony.com .

  • Do I have to pay Massachusetts state income tax on alimony (spousal support)?
    Answer: Yes! Alimony is income to the recipient spouse of former spouse and must be included as income in both your Federal and Massachusetts state income tax return as the income is taxable, subject to Massachusetts Depart of Revenue guidelines (DOR). Back to Top
  • Can I apply for an increase in alimony (spousal support) payment in Massachusetts if my ex-spouses income has increased or risen since the last Alimony court order?
    Answer: In order to modify an existing court order, you must show the court a material change of circumstances. The change in circumstances may be the needs or the resources of a party which may also include income changes. if there is a substantial decrease in income, financial status, job layoff, or job termination, it may warrant a modification. However, there is no guarantee that the courts will approve the modification on this factor alone. Back to Top
  • How can I lower, reduce, or terminate alimony (spousal support) in Massachusetts?
    Answer: You need to show a material change in circumstances in order to file for an alimony modification in Massachusetts? The courts consider factors outlined in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 208 Section 34 in determining whether a reduction or termination (elimination) in alimony is warranted.

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  • If my former spouse (ex-husband or ex-wife) is late, delinquent, or fails to pay alimony, what are my options to enforce the original court order in Massachusetts?
    Answer: You can file a complaint for contempt in Massachusetts for failure to pay alimony in a timely manner.
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  • Will my alimony be reduced in Massachusetts if I change careers or get a new job?
    Answer: The judge has discretion about whether to keep the original alimony order unchanged. If you change careers or get a new job that substantially reduces your income, the judge has discretion to keep the original alimony order unchanged or intact because you voluntarily chose to be underemployed.
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  • If you lose your job, can the Massachusetts Probate Court Judge use your second wife's income to determine how much if any to reduce your original alimony award?
    Answer: A payor's spouses income and assets shall not be considered in an alimony modification brought by the former spouse.
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  • If my former spouse (ex wife or husband) gets a second job or works overtime to earn more money, can I file for an alimony modification in Massachusetts?
    Answer: You can file for alimony modification if there has been a material change in circumstances. The Court has discretion whether or not to modify the existing order based on factors in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 208 Section 34.

    If the payor finds a second job, part time, or overtime work after the initial alimony order, the extra income shall be presumed immaterial in a subsequent alimony modification brought by the former spouse. Back to Top
  • How is alimony or spousal support calculated or determined in Massachusetts?
    Answer: The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 sets specific guidelines on the levels and duration of alimony awards. Durational limits on general term alimony depend on the length of marriage. Alimony awards generally should not exceed the recipient's need or 30% to 35% of the difference between the parties' gross incomes established at the time of the order being issued. Income shall be defined as set forth in the Massachusetts child support guidelines.

    The court may attribute income to a party who is unemployed or underemployed depending on the circumstances of the case.


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  • Do I have to pay Federal income tax on alimony or spousal support income in Massachusetts?
    Answer: Yes! Alimony is income to the recipient spouse or former spouse (ex-husband or wife) and must be included in your Federal as well as Massachusetts State income tax return as the income is taxable subject to the IRS and Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) guidelines.
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  • Can my former spouse (ex-husband or wife) or I file for bankruptcy (Chapter 7 or 13) in order to avoid having to pay an existing alimony (spousal support) order in Massachusetts?
    Answer: No! Both alimony and child support obligations may not be discharged or eliminated in the Bankruptcy Court. In other words, Federal Bankruptcy Laws exempt the discharge or elimination of Massachusetts court ordered alimony or child support awards. Back to Top
  • Can alimony (spousal support) be awarded in Massachusetts over and above the child support worksheet (calculator)?
    Answer: If your family income is $250,000 or less, the courts in Massachusetts will generally not award alimony in addition to child support. However, there are situations where the judge can use their discretion to award alimony depending on the specifics of the case to those making under or above $250K regardless of length of marriage. The courts will consider child support in whole or in part as alimony provided the after-tax support received by the custodial parent is not diminished.

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  • Is alimony (spousal support) awarded in mid (medium) term marriages in Massachusetts?
    Answer: The courts will consider a number of factors including length of the marriage, age and health of the parties, income, martial lifestyle, and other factors as the court considers relevant and material in determining the type of alimony if any to award in medium term marriages. Back to Top
  • Is alimony (spousal support) awarded in short term marriages in Massachusetts?
    Answer: Courts will generally not award alimony in short term marriages but may consider awarding rehabilitative or short duration alimony to give homemakers, non employed, or low earning spouses the opportunity to finish school,or to retrain, or provide time to reenter the workforce. As part of a divorce settlement, the Courts will consider child support in whole or in part as alimony provided the after-tax support received by the custodial parent is not diminished. It's important to remember that the Court has discretion about whether or not to award alimony based on the specifics of your case regardless of the duration of the marriage.

    The courts will consider a number of factors including length of the marriage, age and health of the parties, income, martial lifestyle, and other factors as the court considers relevant and material in determining the type of alimony if any to award in short term marriages. The court could provide short duration general term alimony, rehabilitative, transition, or reimbursement alimony.
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  • Is alimony (spousal support) awarded in long term marriages in Massachusetts?
    Answer: The Courts will generally award general term alimony in long term marriages where one spouse earns significantly more than the other. If the combined income of both parents falls below the Massachusetts Child Support guideline of $250,000/yr (back in 2009), the courts may forego alimony in favor of child support as there may not be enough income to pay for both. When the children are emancipated and the child support burden is removed, the custodial parent may file for a modification of the divorce judgement to have the alimony initiated.
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  • Does Massachusetts have guidelines for alimony (spousal support)?
    Answer: The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 sets specific guidelines on the levels and duration of alimony awards.
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  • Can I get alimony (spousal support) in Massachusetts if I was never legally married but have children?
    Answer: No. There are currently no laws that allow for an unmarried custodial parent to obtain alimony or spousal support upon the breakup of the family or relationship. However, you can get child support from the non custodial parent. Back to Top
  • How long will a Massachusetts spousal support (alimony) award last in a long term marriage?
    Answer: For general term alimony, the duration will generally depend on the length of the marriage. If the marriage is less than 20 years but greater than 15 years, general term alimony duration shall not be greater than 80% of the number of months of the marriage. If the length of marriage is greater than 20 years, the court has discretion to make an alimony award for an indefinite length of time.
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  • If my former spouse (ex-husband or wife) is delinquent in making alimony (spousal support) payments, what course of action can I take in Massachusetts to get him/her to pay?
    Answer: You can file for complaint for contempt against your former spouse (ex-spouse) for his/her failure to pay alimony. Back to Top
  • Is there a alimony formula, alimony calculator, or alimony worksheet to help determine your Massachusetts spousal support award?
    Answer: The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 sets specific guidelines on the levels and duration of alimony awards in Massachusetts.

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  • Does Massachusetts spousal support (alimony) terminate, stop, or end at retirement?
    Answer: Once the payor attains full retirement age, general term alimony shall terminate unless the court sets a different alimony termination date for good cause and the court must enter written findings supporting the reasons for the deviation. The written findings must be supported by clear and convincing evidence.
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  • If I or my former spouse (ex-husband or wife) loses his/her job, business declines or fails, or our health fails, will the court reduce or lower my Massachusetts Alimony (Spousal Support) payments?
    Answer: It all depends on the circumstances surround your case and the details of the Massachusetts existing alimony order. The Court has the discretion to keep the existing order in place in some cases where the Court finds that the payor spouse voluntarily loses his/her job. If the Court finds that the payor spouse is no longer able to work due to health reasons, the Court will most likely modify the existing alimony order.
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  • What happens to my alimony (spousal support) obligation if I lose my job in Massachusetts?
    Answer: If you lose your job in Massachusetts, you have a material change in circumstance that will allow you to file for a alimony modification to try and reduce your existing alimony order. However, there is no guarantee that the courts will approve the modification on this factor alone. Back to Top
  • Can I apply in Massachusetts for an increase in Alimony (Spousal Support) payment if my former spouse's (ex-husband or wife) income has increased or risen since the last Alimony order?
    Answer: No! Unlike child support, once an Alimony order is entered, you will most likely be unable to change the alimony order as a result of your former spouse's increased earnings. Back to Top
  • If my former spouse's (ex-wife or husband) trust income appreciates substantially and my income drops because of a change in job or loss of a job altogether, can I apply for an Alimony (Spousal Support) modificaiton in Massachusetts?
    Answer: Yes, you can file for a modification in alimony because of the material change in circumstance of your job and your former spouse's increased income from his/her trust. Back to Top
  • Will my alimony (spousal support) payment in Massachusetts terminate or end if I were to move in with my boyfriend or girlfriend?
    Answer: If the alimony recipient is found to cohabitate with another person for a continuos period of at least 3 months, it is in the courts discretion to suspend, reduce, terminate, or end the recipient spouses general term alimony. The court can reinstate the original alimony award if cohabitation terminates.

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  • Does a former spouse's cohabitation with a live in boyfriend or girlfriend support or warrant an alimony (spousal support) modification in Massachusetts?
    Answer: A alimony modification is warranted if it can be shown that the alimony recipient has maintained a common household with another person for a continuous period of at least 3 months. The court can reinstate the original alimony award if cohabitation terminates or ends.
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  • How is MA spousal support or alimony calculated or determined ?
    Answer: The courts will look at a number of factors in determining what type of alimony to award including the length of the marriage, age of the parties, health of the parties, income, marital lifestyle, economic and non economic contributions of both parties to the marriage, employment and employability of the parties, lost economic opportunity as a result of the marriage, and other factors as the court considers relevant and material. The four types of alimony they can award include general term, rehabilitative, transition, and reimbursement alimony.

    Alimony awards under the new Alimony Reform Act of 2011 sets specific guidelines on the levels and duration of alimony awards. Alimony awards generally should not exceed the recipients need or 30% to 35% of the difference between the parties' gross incomes established at the time of the order being issued. Income shall be defined as set forth in the Massachusetts child support guidelines.

    Depending on the circumstances of the case, the court may attribute income to a party who is unemployed or underemployed.

    While the alimony reform act of 2011 sets durational limits on alimony based on the length of the marriage, there are certain circumstances in which the court may deviate.


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  • Can lifetime alimony (spousal support) be awarded in long term marriages in Massachusetts to a spouse or party that has the ability to work but chooses to not?
    Answer: The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 sets specific guidelines on the levels and duration of alimony awards. If the length of marriage is greater than 20 years, the court has discretion to make an alimony award for an indefinite length of time.

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  • Under what circumstances can an alimony (spousal support) order be changed, modified, or terminated in Massachusetts?
    Answer: If there has been a change in circumstances that warrant an alimony modification, the general term alimony award may be modified in either the amount or the duration or both. The modification may be permanent, indefinite, or for a finite period of time. Unlike general term alimony, transition and reimbursement alimony is not modifiable.
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