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Massachusetts Alimony

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In Massachusetts, the Court has the authority to award temporary, permanent, rehabilitative or lump sum alimony in divorces to either the husband or wife (spousal support). The type of alimony awarded depends on the circumstances of the case. Alimony is not awarded in paternity cases.

Unlike child support, there is currently no set formula for determining alimony and judges have discretion as to whether it's awarded or not. In general, the court must consider the following mandatory factors when making a determination about alimony:

  • the length of marriage
  • the conduct of the parties during marriage
  • the ages of the parties
  • the health of the parties
  • station in life
  • occupation of the parties
  • amount and sources of income
  • vocational skills of the parties
  • employability of each party
  • estate of the parties
  • liabilities and needs of the parties, and
  • the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income.

The court must consider all of the mandatory factors but the weight assigned to each factor is at the sole discretion of the judge. The judge has discretion when making comprehensive equitable awards in large estates to allocate property or assets in exchange for a reduction in alimony awards.

Often times the parties in a divorce believe that "the conduct of the parties during marriage" should carry the highest weight and warrants disproportionate award of alimony and marital property. What the parties fail to realize is that the probate and family court is not a court of moral judgement and any such argument will usually carry little weight in the award of additional alimony and a disproportionate share of the marital estate.

In general, the court usually doesn't award alimony in short-term marriages (generally up to 7 years) without children but they tend to make an equitable division of assets obtained during the marriage. If they do make an award of alimony, it usually is just enough to give the other spouse some time to enter the workforce.

In intermediate marriages (generally 7 to 15 years) where one spouse works and the other doesn't, judges are likely to order some form of temporary alimony. This allows the spouse receiving the award to get retrained in order to reenter the workforce or finish up a degree in order to increase their earning potential so that he/she may re enter the workforce.

In longer term marriages (generally 16 years or more), the court will often award longer duration or even permanent alimony unless a material change in circumstances occurs such as remarriage by the recipient or death of either party.
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Where children are involved, by increasing the combined gross income levels from $135,000 under the old guidelines to $250,000 under the new guidelines, the courts have reduced the number of alimony awards as the new guidelines apply to a greater portion of the population. Even so, the court may consider income above $250,000 per year as a source for an alimony award.

Massachusetts Tax Treatment of Alimony

Alimony is taxable income to the recipient and tax deductable to the payor. The court will consider a decrease in child support payments in exchange for increased alimony as long as both parties make a case that the combined payments doesn't fall below the minimum after tax child support income as determined by the child support guidelines. They will also consider reducing or eliminating a payer's alimony obligation in exchange for greater share of the marital assets.

Mass Alimony Statute: Mass General Laws Ch. 208, sec 34

Our Boston lawyers and attorneys are experienced in all areas of alimony laws. Call attorney Robyn A. Briatico at 617-387-6800 to schedule your free 20 minute phone consult.

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