How the Court Determines the Duration of Alimony in Massachusetts (Part 3)

  • By:Karpenski & Schmelkin

Either party, or both parties, may request that the Court issue an alimony order as part of the terms of their Judgment of Divorce. Alimony is defined as support payments from a spouse who has an ability to pay, to a spouse who needs support.

This is the last part in a three (3) part series on alimony. In our blog, we discuss how the Court determines the duration when it enters an alimony order.

Once the Court has determined an alimony amount, the final consideration for the Court is to determine the duration of alimony payments. All alimony orders must be set for a reasonable length of time. The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 has provided the court will specific language on alimony durational limits. The length of the marriage will help the Court determine the length of the alimony term.

The alimony terms are as follows: zero to five (0-5) years, five to ten (5-10) years, ten to fifteen (10-15) years, fifteen to twenty (15-20) years, and twenty (20) years or longer. The length of marriage for purposes of alimony calculations is calculated from the date of marriage to the date of service of the complaint for divorce. While the Court may deviate from the maximum durational limits, the Court must find that it is in the interest of justice to do so.

Alimony orders will also terminate upon the payor reaching full retirement age, unless the Court enters specific findings that good cause has been shown that the alimony order should not terminate upon the payor reaching full retirement age.

In addition, alimony orders will terminate upon the recipient’s remarriage and either party’s death. Lastly, alimony orders will either terminate, be reduced, or suspended in the event that a recipient spouse is deemed to be maintaining a common household with another person for a period of ninety (90) days or more. This usually arises when a recipient spouse becomes involved in a  new romantic relationship.

The Court will consider the following factors when deciding to either terminate, reduce, or suspend alimony based on the recipient spouses maintaining a common household with another person:

  • oral or written statements or representations made to third parties regarding the relationship of the persons;
  • the economic interdependence of the couple or economic dependence of 1 person on the other;
  • the persons engaging in conduct and collaborative roles in furtherance of their life together;
  • the benefit in the life of either or both of the persons from their relationship;
  • the community reputation of the persons as a couple;
  • or other relevant and material factors

Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 208 §49.

However, unlike the first four circumstances (durational limit date, payor reaching full retirement age, recipient’s remarriage, and either party’s death) which automatically terminate alimony upon the event occurring, a payor spouse must file a Complaint for Modification seeking a termination or change of his/her alimony obligation based upon the recipient spouse maintaining a common household with another person.

The duration of an alimony order depends on the specific facts and circumstances of the case. For exceptional assistance with any aspect of your divorce or family law matter, contact the knowledgeable and experienced attorneys at Karpenski & Schmelkin, Divorce and Family Law Attorneys for more information.

Posted in: Alimony