Understanding Alimony Deviations

  • By:Karpenski & Schmelkin

Understanding Alimony Deviations

Alimony is the payment made by one spouse, the “payor” spouse who must have the ability to pay, to the other “recipient” spouse who must need support in order to meet his/her basic needs.  One purpose of alimony is to allow both parties, post-divorce, to maintain the lifestyle the parties enjoyed during the marriage. This payment is also known as spousal support. Alimony is gender neutral; therefore, either spouse could be ordered to pay alimony to the other spouse.

How the Court determines whether to order alimony

In setting an alimony order, the Court shall consider the following factors:

  1. the length of the marriage;
  2. age of the parties;
  3. health of the parties;
  4. income, employment and employability of both parties, including employability through reasonable diligence and additional training, if necessary;
  5. economic and non-economic contribution of both parties to the marriage;
  6. marital lifestyle; ability of each party to maintain the marital lifestyle; lost economic opportunity as a result of the marriage;
  7. and such other factors as the court considers relevant and material.

Mass Gen. Laws. Ch. 208 §53(a).

Know the Provisions of the Alimony Reform Act

The Alimony Reform Act provides for maximum durational limits on the timeframe for alimony based upon the length of marriage. For an in depth analysis of this provision of the Alimony Reform Act, please feel free to reach our blog post, entitled Duration of Alimony in Massachusetts.

The Alimony Reform Act also provides a formula for the Court to use when calculating the amount of alimony. The amount of alimony is calculated between thirty to thirty-five percent (30%-35) of the difference in the parties’ respective gross incomes.  Beginning January 1, 2019, the Tax Reform Act prohibits future alimony payments from being deductible to the payor and includible to the recipient as income.

As such, going forward, the amount of alimony calculated will likely be less than thirty to thirty-five percent of the difference in the parties’ respective gross incomes.   Gross income for purposes of alimony excludes capital gains income and dividend and interest income which come from assets divided as part of the divorce and income which was used to calculate child support. For an in depth analysis of this provision of the Alimony Reform Act, please feel free to reach our blog post, Amount of Alimony in Massachusetts.

The Alimony Reform Act also provides that alimony orders will 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.

Reasons for Deviations from the Alimony Reform Act

 Just as the Child Support Guidelines provide for circumstances for the Court to deviate from application of the Child Support Guidelines, so does that the Alimony Reform Act. When the Court either enters an initial alimony order or modifies an existing alimony order, the Court may deviate from the maximum durational limits, amount of alimony, and payor reaching full retirement age limit after consideration of the following factors:

  1. advanced age; chronic illness; or unusual health circumstances of either party;
  2. tax considerations applicable to the parties;
  3. whether the payor spouse is providing health insurance and the cost of health insurance for the recipient spouse;
  4. whether the payor spouse has been ordered to secure life insurance for the benefit of the recipient spouse and the cost of such insurance;
  5. sources and amounts of unearned income, including capital gains, interest and dividends, annuity and investment income from assets that were not allocated in the parties’ divorce;
  6. significant premarital cohabitation that included economic partnership or marital separation of significant duration, each of which the court may consider in determining the length of the marriage;
  7. a party’s inability to provide for that party’s own support by reason of physical or mental abuse by the payor;
  8. a party’s inability to provide for that party’s own support by reason of that party’s deficiency of property, maintenance or employment opportunity; and
  9. upon written findings, any other factor that the court deems relevant and material.

Mass. Gen. Laws. Ch. 208 §53(e)

If the Court deviates from the provisions of the Alimony Reform Act, the Court shall enter written findings that deviation is necessary.

Each case presents unique facts and circumstances for the Court when considering entering an alimony order. 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