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Massachusetts Alimony Reform Law

Massachusetts has a new alimony law that was enacted in 2011 and went into effect during 2012. The primary goal of this law is to have more uniform and consistent judicial decisions on spousal support. A Judge continues to have a high level of discretion in making judgments on the amount and duration of alimony. However, the new law provides guidelines that a Judge must consider when arriving at a decision. There are now four categories of alimony: general term, rehabilitative, reimbursement, and transitional.

The guidelines for general term alimony include suggested parameters for amount and duration. The maximum amount is 35% of the difference between each person’s gross income. For marriages of less than five years, the maximum period for alimony payments is 50% of the months of the marriage; for marriages of more than five but less than ten years, the maximum period is 60% of the months of the marriage; for marriages of more than ten but less than fifteen years, the maximum period is 70% of the months of the marriage; and for marriages of more than fifteen but less than twenty years, the maximum period is 80% of the months of the marriage. There are circumstances where years of cohabitation prior to the marriage can be counted as years of marriage for purposes of this new law.

Rehabilitative alimony, reimbursement alimony, and transitional alimony all have a guideline of five years maximum duration. Rehabilitative alimony is intended to provide payments until the recipient can become economically self-sufficient. Reimbursement alimony is intended to reimburse the recipient for economic and/or non-economic support provided to the payor during the marriage such as support that enabled the payor to complete education or job training. Transitional alimony is intended to assist the recipient with a transition to an adjusted lifestyle and/or location as a result of the divorce. 

Alimony and Property Division

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 208, Section 34, and Sections 48 through 55 govern the award of alimony and/or division of property in divorce proceedings. Section 34 directs Probate and Family Court Judges to take into account certain mandatory and discretionary factors when issuing a decree. The Court "shall consider the length of the marriage, the conduct of the parties during the marriage, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties, the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income, and the amount and duration of alimony, if any, awarded under sections 48 to 55, inclusive. In fixing the nature and value of the property to be so assigned, the court shall also consider the present and future needs of the dependent children of the marriage. The court may also consider the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates and the contribution of each of the parties as a homemaker to the family unit."

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