Alimony in Massachusetts: How Much and for How Long?

by: Marcia Mavrides, Esq.

How long?

Massachusetts alimony law is clear regarding how long support, which is known as general term alimony, will have to be paid by one spouse to the other.  This durational limitation for marriages under twenty years is based on the number of months you were been married:  from date of marriage to date one of you was served with the complaint for divorce.  The amount to time an alimony payer is required to pay alimony is based on a percentage of the number of months of this calculation.  That percentage increases every five years.  For a marriage of  5 years or less, the duration for alimony is 50% of the number of months; between 5 to 10 years, 60% of the number of months; between 10 years to 15 years, 70% the number of months; between 15 years to 20 years, 80% the number of months. For marriages greater than 20 years, alimony will be paid until the full social security retirement age of the alimony payer.  For most people, full social security retirement age is between 66-68 years old.  It is possible to pierce through these presumed duration limitations, but this requires exceptional situations that a judge may approve and order.  Of course, an alimony payer can voluntarily agree to pay alimony for a longer period of time than the law requires.

There are two other kinds of alimony in addition to the general term alimony described above.  These are for marriages of less than 5 years and are for very specific reasons, such as reimbursing a spouse for economic and non-economic support, such as one spouse supporting the other spouse while he/she completes his/her education.  The other form of alimony is transitional support, which is paid for a period of time less than five years in order for a spouse to become self-supporting.   The latter is usually for people who have been out of the work place and require time to become gainfully employed.

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How much?

Once the “how long” for payment of alimony is determined, the second question is “how much” should be paid?   Although you and your spouse may each earn money, one of you may earn significantly more.  In all requests for alimony, the fundamental question that must be answered is whether there is a need for alimony by a spouse requesting support?  And, if there is a need by one spouse, does the other spouse have an ability to pay?  This determination can be very subjective, and it is very important to consult an experienced divorce attorney, who can drill down into this issue to determine the appropriate amount that should be paid.   As a guideline, the law suggests that alimony be paid in an amount between 30-35% of the difference in both spouses’ incomes. However, this is just a guideline and the law recognizes that alimony should not exceed a spouse’s need for alimony.  Finally, if there is also child support to be paid, then the amount of child support may impact the amount of alimony.  Since alimony and Massachusetts child support consider two different analysis, it is important to understand that the income used to calculate child support cannot be “double dipped” and used again to calculate alimony.  In general, the first $250,000 of income is used in the child support calculation and income above $250,000 can be used for additional child support or for the alimony calculation. Again, if you are in this child support and alimony duo analysis, it is important to consult and experienced attorney to determine how best to proceed.

Looking for financial statements? Here they are: MA Short Form and Long Form Financial Statements

Marcia Mavrides is the MA top divorce and family law attorney For over 34 years, Marcia Mavrides has been a recognized leader in the divorce and family law community throughout Boston and Massachusetts. To speak with a lawyer about divorce, paternity, or child custody matter, contact Mavrides Law in Boston, Newton, or Wellesley, MA. To schedule an in-depth initial consultation, call 617-723-9900 or contact the firm at




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