In Massachusetts, a court can award alimony in a divorce case if it determines that there is a need for support by one spouse in order to continue the standard of living maintained during the marriage and an ability of the other spouse to help meet that need. It is possible if not likely, however, that a divorce will result in a reduced standard of living for both parties and it is then a matter of sharing that reduction equitably.
Major changes to the law of alimony became effective in 2012. Under reform legislation, four types of alimony are now available:
1. General term alimony is the periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is economically dependent on a payor spouse.
- It terminates on the remarriage of the recipient spouse, the death of either spouse, or the payor spouse attaining full retirement age under Social Security (67 for people born after 1959).
- It can be suspended, reduced, or terminated if the recipient spouse maintains a common household with another person for a continuous period of at least 3 months.
- It is limited in duration based on the length of the marriage as follows: after a marriage of 5 years or less, 50% of the length of the marriage; after a marriage of between 5 and 10 years, 60% of the length of the marriage; after a marriage of between 10 and years, 70% of the length of the marriage; after a marriage of between 15 and 20 years, 80% of the length of the marriage; after a marriage of more than 20 years, no limit (except as noted above).
- The amount of general term alimony payments can be modified on a showing of a material change of circumstances.