Massachusetts Alimony Divorce Laws and Payments

Audrey M. Jones
writing alimony check

As established in Section 34, Chapter 208 of the state's general laws, either party in a divorce can receive alimony payments depending on a variety of factors. The amount and type of alimony awarded is determined by the court. In 2011, the alimony system in Massachusetts received a major overhaul changing the types of alimony available.

Massachusetts Alimony Laws

Massachusetts alimony statutes are gender neutral and allow four types of alimony: general term, rehabilitative, reimbursement, and transitional. Courts can award alimony during a divorce proceeding or after the divorce has been completed. To award alimony for a foreign divorce (meaning one entered into in a different state), both parties must live in Massachusetts.

Payment Considerations

A Massachusetts court can consider the following when determining whether to award alimony and how much should be paid:

  • Each spouse's testimony
  • Length of the marriage
  • Age
  • Health
  • Martial lifestyle of both parties
  • Lost economic opportunity as a result of the marriage
  • Occupation of the spouses
  • Employability of one or both spouses

In Massachusetts, you can choose to file a fault or no-fault divorce, meaning that neither spouse is blamed for the demise of the marriage. The court is also permitted to include the conduct of parties during the marriage in its analysis.

Health Insurance

Massachusetts alimony laws also permit a court to award health insurance to an ex-spouse. A paying spouse who has health insurance, either through work or an individual policy, can be required to pay for or include an ex-spouse on his or her policy.

Failure to Pay

As in other states, alimony payment obligations are not discharged through bankruptcy. Failure to pay alimony as required by the court can result in punishment through the garnishment of wages or an award of assets to the receiving spouse.

Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of 2011

Prior to 2011, you could receive lifetime alimony payments, and there were fewer alimony types available. However, in January of 2011, the Massachusetts state legislature introduced the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of 2011. This legislation drastically altered the state's alimony statutes. The law limited what a court can consider when awarding alimony and the length of time alimony can be awarded. For example, the new law added limits like ending alimony if the recipient reaches retirement age. It also essentially took away unlimited alimony except under special circumstances.

How to Receive Alimony in Massachusetts

Courts cannot grant an award of alimony unless a spouse asks for support. Even then, the court must hold a hearing to determine whether the requesting spouse has an actual need for spousal support and if the other spouse is able to pay. Alimony is awarded in addition to child support, but the amount of child support will be included in the court's consideration and may result in a lower award for alimony.

If you are in need of financial assistance from your ex-spouse, don't hesitate to ask for it, but be certain to provide evidence of your need. Massachusetts courts will not prohibit you from receiving what you need or are entitled to from your ex-spouse. Additionally, the amount of the payment awarded is typically 30-35% of the difference between the gross incomes of the parties.

Getting Assistance

Prior to 2011, Massachusetts used to offer lifetime alimony. However, after the 2011 Reform Act, the system was overhauled to offer alimony based on need and several factors like the length of the marriage. Currently, Massachusetts offers four different types of alimony and health insurance also might be awarded.

Massachusetts Alimony Divorce Laws and Payments