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Alimony in Massachusetts 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 in the areas of Massachusetts alimony that we hope will be helpful to our guests, prospects, and clients in understanding our alimony laws.

We encourage all of our website guests for their own protection to always consult with a licensed Massachusetts attorney in good standing practicing in the areas of Divorce and Family law, such as Massachusetts alimony attorney Robyn A. Briatico, before acting on any information they obtain from this or any other website.

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

  • Can you modify in Massachusetts an alimony award after a divorce?
    Answer: A MA alimony award can be modified after a divorce.
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  • What factors do judges consider in making an alimony award in Massachusetts?
    Answer: Judges must take into account all factors in Massachusetts G.L.c 208, Section 34, in making an alimony award. Back to Top
  • Can retirement pension income be used as a source for the payment of alimony in Massachusetts?
    Answer: Judges have discretion in the treatment of retirement pension income as a source for the payment of alimony. Back to Top
  • Can a wife (spouse) be required in Massachusetts to pay alimony to her husband in a divorce?
    Answer: The judge has discretion in making an alimony award to the husband if warranted. Back to Top
  • Is an alimony award in Massachusetts terminated upon death of the payor (husband or wife)?
    Answer: As a general rule, an order for the payment of alimony ceases with the death of the payor unless arrearages are due an unpaid or a divorce decree or judgment provides otherwise. Back to Top
  • Can a judge award a wife (or husband) going through a divorce part of the marital estate including property, pension, retirement assets, stock options, 401K, or IRA in addition to an alimony award?
    Answer: A Massachusetts judge has the discretion to award the wife (or husband) part or ALL of the marital estate of the other in a divorce. Back to Top
  • Is there a calculator or formula that judges can use in Massachusetts to come up with a predictable alimony award for a wife (or husband) involved in a short, medium, or long term marriage?
    Answer: The alimony reform act of 2011 sets specific guidelines on the durations and levels of alimony awards in Massachusetts. To obtain your alimony obligation, you can use the alimony calculator found on MassachusettsAlimony.com or go to Chapter 208 Section 48 to 55 to determine how to calculate it yourself. Back to Top
  • Is there a formula or calculation in Massachusetts to determine whether an alimony award is warranted in a short term, medium term, or long term marriage?
    Answer: The judge will fairly consider all relevant factors under M.L.c 208, section 48 to 55 in determining the alimony duration and award amount if any to be awarded. Back to Top
  • How does a judge determine the amount of alimony to award a wife (or husbands)?
    Answer: The alimony reform act of 2011 set specific guidelines in determining the alimony amount and duration if any to be awarded. You can find the formula in sections 48-55 of Massachusetts G.L.C Chapter 208.
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  • If I lose my job, do I have to continue to pay an existing alimony award?
    Answer: Yes. If you lose your job, you should immediately file for a alimony modification. You must continue to pay your alimony obligation until the court says otherwise. Its important to remember that a judge doesn't have to reduce or terminate your existing alimony obligation just because you no longer work. In fact, there have been cases in which a husband was ordered to satisfy an existing alimony order even though he no longer had a job. Back to Top
  • Do judges in Massachusetts award alimony to a wife (or husband) involved in a short or medium term marriages?
    Answer: There are specific guidelines for judges to follow in determining the alimony duration and amount if any to be awarded. You can find the formula used to determine the alimony duration and award amounts in Chapter 208 sections 48 to 55. Alimony can be awarded to either husband or wife depending on the specifics of each case. Back to Top
  • Can a judge order you (husband or wife) to use your life insurance, pension, or 401K death benefit to secure your alimony obligation in the event of your death?
    Answer: Yes. It is within the judges discretion to order the husband (or wife) to use their life insurance, pension, or 401K death benefit to meet you spouses future alimony obligations in the event of your death. Back to Top
  • In long term marriages, do judges in Massachusetts award the wife (or husband) lifetime alimony?
    Answer: The new alimony laws enacted in 2012 allow the courts to order alimony for an indefinite length of time for marriages of 20 years or more. Back to Top
  • If my wife (husband or spouse) is awarded long term MA alimony, what percentage of my income will I have to pay?
    Answer: The new alimony laws set specific guidelines as to the alimony award amounts and duration. The guideline calls for alimony awards in the range of 30% to 35%. of the difference between the parties gross incomes established at the time the order was issued. Income shall be defined as set forth in the Massachusetts child support guidelines. Back to Top
  • Can an initial claim of alimony be brought at any time after a divorce in Massachusetts?
    Answer: If for some reason, alimony was not addressed in your divorce, you may bring an initial claim for alimony after a divorce pursuant to G.L.c. 208, section 34.

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  • Can alimony be awarded in conjunction with child support in a short, medium, and long term marriage?
    Answer: Yes. Alimony can be awarded in addition to child support depending on the specifics of the case. Generally speaking, if the gross income of both parties fall below $250,000/yr and you have children, your not likely to receive any general term alimony while you receive child support. For high net worth divorce cases, alimony and child support can be awarded concurrently. Back to Top
  • Can income from my husband (or wife) trust be treated as a stream of income for the payment of alimony and child support in Massachusetts?
    Answer: Yes. If a judge finds that income from a trust has been historically distributed on a consistent basis to your husband (or wife), the income can be treated as a stream of income for the payment of alimony. Back to Top
  • Can the judge use income from a trust for the payment of alimony?
    Answer: In some cases, a judge can use income from a trust for the payment of alimony depending on the details of the trust. Back to Top
  • Is it a given that a rehabilitative or transition alimony will be awarded in a short term or medium term marriages?
    Answer: Depending of the specifics of your case, judges have discretion in making an alimony award. There are 4 types of alimony that judges can award in MA and they include general term, rehabilitative, transition, and reimbursement alimony. Back to Top
  • Can a judge lower a husband (or wife) alimony award if evidence is presented at trial shows they are a beneficiary of a family trust?
    Answer: If it is discovered that the wife (or husband) is a beneficiary to a family trust or for that matter any trust, the judge may fashion an alimony award that would likely be a little lower than if the alimony recipient wasn't a beneficiary of the family trust.
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  • Does Massachusetts spousal support or alimony terminate or end in retirement?
    Answer: General term alimony shall terminate upon the payor reaching full retirement age. Judges have discretion to extend alimony beyond the guidelines so long as they provide written findings of the reasons for the deviation. Back to Top
  • Will I lose my alimony or spousal support in Massachusetts if I were to cohabitate?
    Answer: Cohabitation is grounds for suspending, reducing, or terminating an existing general term alimony award so long as the recipient spouse maintained a common household with another person for a continuous period of at least 3 months.
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  • Do alimony payments decrease if my former spouse (ex-husband or ex-wife) income or salary is lowered or reduced?
    Answer: It all depends on the details of the original alimony order. If the judgement was for a fixed alimony amount, the payor must continue to pay you this amount even if his or her income or salary is reduced. The only way to change this order is to bring forward a motion to modify an existing alimony order. It's important to note that you must show a change in circumstances in order for the judge to consider an alimony modification. If the original alimony order was based on you receiving a percentage of your spouses gross earnings, income, or bonus, than you will likely receive less alimony income. Back to Top
  • How do bonuses factor into the award of alimony in massachusetts?
    Answer: Generally, the courts will consider all sources of income when making an alimony award and this includes income from bonuses, interest and dividend earnings from investments, and even earnings from some types of trusts in which you are a beneficiary. Back to Top
  • Is alimony granted or awarded in massachusetts to short or medium term marriages lasting 5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14, or 15 years?
    Answer: Judges have discretion in making specific types of alimony awards depending on the specifics of the case. General term alimony can be awarded in short, medium, and long term marriages. Back to Top
  • How has the court ruled on alimony in short term marriages in Massachusetts?
    Answer: There are several types of alimony that can be awarded in short term marriages including general term alimony, rehabilitative, transition, and reimbursement alimony. Back to Top
  • How do I go about modifying alimony or spousal support 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. The modification may be permanent, indefinite, or for a finite period of time.
    Unlike general term alimony, transition and reimbursement alimony is not modifiable.

    If the existing alimony award duration exceeds the durational limits established in Chapter 208, section 49, the alimony award is modifiable and you can file a complaint for modification with the court without having to show any additional material change in circumstance.. Please review Massachusetts G.L.C Chapter 208, section 49 as to when this type of modification can be filed.
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  • How do I calculate or what is my alimony obligation or payment in a short, medium, or long term marriage in massachusetts?
    Answer: It all depends on the type of alimony the judge awards in your case. The more common general term alimony is available in short, medium, and long term marriages in Massachusetts.The alimony amount is in the range of 30% to 35% while the alimony duration can range from 50% to 80% of the number of months your were married. If you were married for more than 20 years, the judge may order alimony for an indefinite period of time depending on the specifics of your case. Back to Top
  • Can spousal support or alimony be modified or changed in massachusetts?
    Answer: Alimony and spousal support can be modified if a change in circumstances warrants a modification to an existing MA alimony order. If the existing alimony award duration exceeds the durational limits established in Chapter 208, section 49, the alimony award is modifiable and you can file a complaint for modification with the court without having to show any additional material change in circumstance. Back to Top
  • Can or does Massachusetts award a custodial parent (spouse, ex-wife, ex-husband) both alimony and child support?
    Answer: Yes, the trial judge can order an ex-husband (or ex-wife) to pay both child support and alimony as it is within their discretion to make such an award. There are also tax reasons why some would prefer paying both. It is unlikely that any general term alimony will be awarded to families with a house hold income below $250,000/yr. There are other types of alimony such as transition or rehabilitative alimony that may be awarded alongside child support. For high income earners with incomes exceeding $250,000/yr, the court could require the payment of both child support and alimony. Back to Top
  • How much alimony or spousal support income or payment should I expect to receive or obtain from my ex-spouse (ex-husband or wife) in a 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, or 8 year marriage in massachusetts?
    Answer: If the judge orders the payor to pay general term alimony, the guidelines calls for the payment of alimony for a period of 50% of the number of months of a marriage lasting up to 5 years. The duration increases to 60% for marriages between 5 and 10 years.

    Alimony awards in Massachusetts 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. Back to Top
  • Can an alimony or a spousal support order be adjusted, modified, lowered, or changed in Massachusetts?
    Answer: Yes, so long as the original divorce decree or judgement allows for an alimony modification or a change in circumstance warrants a modification. Back to Top
  • How long do you have to be married to your spouse (ex-husband or wife) to get alimony or spousal support in massachusetts?
    Answer: The new alimony guidelines allow judges to award several types of alimony in short, medium, and long term marriages depending on the specifics of the case. Back to Top
  • What actions can I take if my spouse (ex-wife or ex-husband) is behind in alimony or spousal support payments in Massachusetts?
    Answer: You can file a contempt against your spouse for the failure to pay alimony or spousal support in a timely manner. Back to Top
  • How much alimony income or payments will I get,obtain, or recieve from my ex-spouse (ex-husband or wife) in a 9,10,11,12,13,14,15,or 16 year marriage in massachusetts?
    Answer: If your joint income is below $250,000/yr, your likely to receive child support and no general term alimony. Depending on the specifics of your case, the judge can order other types of alimony such as transitional or rehabilitative alimony. If your joint income is above $250,000/yr, your likely to receive general term alimony with a duration lasting 60% of the months you were married in a 9 or 10 year marriage. For marriages between 10 to 15 years, the duration percentage increases to 70% and for 16 years, it rises to 80%. Back to Top
  • What is the alimony income or payment that I will receive,obtain, or get from my ex-spouse (ex-husband or wife) in a 17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24, or 25 year marriage in massachusetts?
    Answer: If your joint income is below $250,000/yr, your likely to receive child support and no general term alimony. Depending on the specifics of your case, the judge can order other types of alimony such as transitional or rehabilitative alimony. If your joint income is above $250,000/yr, your likely to receive general term alimony with a duration lasting 80% for marriages between 17 to 20 years. For marriages lasting more than 20 years, the court has discretion to make an alimony award for an indefinite length of time. Back to Top
  • How long does alimony or spousal support last in Masschusetts?
    Answer: The new alimony reform act of 2011 sets specific guidelines for determining the general term alimony duration. Rehabilitative, Transitional, and reimbursement alimony have a duration up to 5 years. Back to Top
  • How long do you have to be married to your spouse (husband or wife) to get an alimony award in massachusetts?
    Answer: There is no time limit in terms of having a judge consider your eligibility for an alimony award in MA. General term alimony can be awarded in short, medium, and long term marriages. There are other forms of alimony for marriages less than 5 years that can also be awarded. For those with joint household income of $250,000/yr or less, your likely to receive only child support. Back to Top