Type or Form of Alimony

Under the new statute there are 4 categories of alimony each of which has presumptive end dates:

General term alimony

This is the periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is economically dependent. This provides that the presumptive duration of alimony is a fraction of the duration of the marriage.

  • 5 years or less, alimony shall not be longer than 50% of the duration of the marriage
  • 5 and 10 years, alimony shall not be longer than 60% of the duration of the marriage
  • 10 and 15 years, alimony shall not be longer than 70% of the duration of the marriage
  • 15 and 20 years, alimony shall not be longer than 80% of the duration of the marriage
  • 20 years or more, alimony can be for an indefinite length of time.

However, alimony shall terminate when the obligor is eligible for full social security retirement benefits, or remarriage of the recipient.

Alimony shall be suspended, reduced, or terminated upon the cohabitation of the recipient for at least 3 months.

  • Transitional alimony: One-time or periodic payment of support of not more than 3 years after a marriage of not more than 5 years to transition the recipient to an adjusted lifestyle or location as a result of the divorce.  This is not modifiable.
  • Rehabilitative alimony: This is support to a recipient who is expected to become economically self sufficient by a predicted time of no more than 5 years.
  • Reimbursement alimony: This is periodic or one-time payment of support after a marriage of not more than 5 years to compensate the recipient for economic and non-economic contribution to the payor spouse such as enabling the payor spouse to complete an education program.  This is not modifiable.

Factors to consider: In determining the appropriate form of alimony and setting the amount and duration, the court shall consider:

  • Marriage length
  • Ages of the parties
  • Health of the parties
  • Income, employment and employability of the parties including employability through reasonable diligence and additional training
  • Economic and non-economic contributions of both parties to the marriage
  • Marital lifestyle
  • Ability of each party to maintain the marital lifestyle
  • Lost economic opportunity as a result of the marriage
  • Other factors the court deems material and relevant

Rebutting the presumption:

A presumption will be applied in most cases. The presumption can be rebutted and a different order can be entered with a higher degree of proof. Your lawyer would need to propose findings of fact for the court to issue in the event that you are seeking to rebut a presumption in the statute.

Amount of Alimony:

In determining the amount of alimony, except for reimbursement alimony, the amount of alimony should generally not exceed the recipient’s need or 30 to 35% of the difference between the parties’ gross incomes at the time of the order.

Can you change existing alimony orders of indefinite duration? If you have indefinite term alimony ordered or agreed upon prior to the enactment of the alimony reform statute, your case may be eligible for modification. Whether you are a recipient or an obligor, you need to be aware of this potential to modify your alimony order. An existing alimony order that exceeds the durational limit in the alimony reform statute can be modified without the need to show a material change in circumstances unless there is an agreement that the term of alimony is not modifiable or “survives”.  However, there is a waiting period to file a modification action  under this circumstance:

  • March 1, 2013: if you were married for 5 years or less or if the obligor will reach full retirement age on or before March 1, 2015
  • March 1, 2014: if you were married for 5 to 10 years
  • March 1, 2015: if you were married for 10 to 15 years
  • September 1, 2015: if you were married for 15 to 20 years

Effect of alimony reform: Alimony reform has changed the culture of divorce practice and may prove to change the division of assets. For sure, it is now in the best interest of the recipient spouse to become self supporting by the time of the termination of alimony. Some predict that unequal divisions of assets may be more likely because the future ability to accumulate assets and income will not be equalized.  That remains to be seen and would only be decided on a case by case basis.

Contact the Law Offices of Lisa J. Graff for a confidential consultation. We’re located in Sudbury, Metro West Boston, Massachusetts and service the following counties: Middlesex, Worcester, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Plymouth and Bristol Counties.