Alimony & The Alimony Reform Act - Massachusetts



 

Alimony in Massachusetts is one of the more rapidly evolving areas of the law due to the passing of the Alimony Reform Act in 2011 (taking effect in March 2012). In order to full understand alimony in Massachusetts you have to know the basics, but also keep up on the latest appelate cases interpreting this new law. Below we have provided answers to many of the common questions that we are asked about Alimony and the Alimony Reform Act. At the bottom of this page you will also find links to all the recent appelate decisions relating to the Act.
The most important lesson we hope everyone learns from these appeals, is that if you are going to court, there are no guarantees as to how a Judge might rule becuase there is quite a bit of discretion as to how the law can be applied. If you resolve your case through settlment, Collaborative Divorce, or Mediation, you have the right to deviate based on agreements that take into account your particular circumstances. If you would like more information please do not hesitate to call us at 508.655.5980 or e-mail us.

What is Alimony?

Alimony, also called spousal support, is paid by the wage-earning spouse (the spouse who has traditionally earned the majority of the income during the marriage) to the non-wage-earning spouse to allow the non-wage-earning spouse to continue to live in the lifestyle to which he or she has become accustomed during the marriage assuming their is enough income to do so.

Until 2011, there was no formula enacted or endorsed by the Massachusetts Legislature or the Courts for the calculation of alimony. However, on September 26, 2011, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law The Alimony Reform Act of 2011, which becomes effective on March 1, 2012. Once effective, the act provides for multiple types of alimony, and for maximum amounts and duration of alimony.

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What are the different types of Alimony?

Pursuant to the new law the four types of Alimony are defined as follows:

General Term Alimony: periodic payment of support to a recipient who is economically dependent.

Rehabilitative Alimony: periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is expected to become economically self-sufficient by a predicted time, such as, without limitation, reemployment, completion of job training; or receipt of a sum due from the payor spouse pursuant to a judgment.

Reimbursement Alimony: periodic or one-time payment of support to a recipient spouse after a marriage of not more than five years and for the purpose of compensating the recipient for economic or noneconomic contributions to the financial resources of the payor spouse, such as enabling the payor spouse to complete and education or job training.

Transitional Alimony: periodic or one-time payment of support to a recipient spouse after a marriage of not more than five years and for the purpose of transitioning the recipient to an adjusted lifestyle or location as a result of the divorce.

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How is the amount of Alimony calculated?

The new law doesn't define an exact formual for calculating alimony, but it does include a formula for calculating the maximum amount of Alimony:

Except for Reimbursement Alimony or circumstances warranting deviation for other forms of alimony, the amount of alimony should generally not exceed the recipient's need or 30% to 35% of the difference between the parties gross incomes.

To view the formula and calculate the maximum Alimony with a printable Worksheet click here. If you would like more information please do not hesitate to call us at 508.655.5980 or e-mail us.

SAME-SEX DIVORCE TIP: There are two differences in how alimony may be calculated in a same-sex divorce case. The first difference is that the Section 34 Factors may not be applied the same way in a same-sex divorce case because same-sex marriage has only been available as a right since 2004. The "length of marriage" factor may be applied differently if the couple was together long before they had the right to marry in Massachusetts. This could also be an issue for couples who first lived together in a state where same-sex marriage was not legal but who then later moved to Massachusetts and got married.

The second difference in how alimony may be calculated relates to a taxation issue, which is different for same-sex marriages. On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States declared in United States v. Wilson, that section 3 of DOMA (the "defense of marriage act") is unconstitutional. Previously this section prevented federal agencies from treating same-sex marriages as marriages for benefits and tax purposes. The ruling in Wilson changed all this and for federal purposes marriages valid in Massachusetts are now also recognized by the federal government.

Alimony is included as taxable income to the Recipient and tax deductible to the Payor, and with the new ruling in Wilson relating to same-sex divorces the parties are now recognized as married and therefore also have this tax benefit available to them. However, this may not be the case on state tax returns if you or your ex-spouse move to a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages.

You should consult an attorney if you have questions about the Section 34 factors or how these factors can be affected by issues unique to same-sex marriages. Click here for more information about gay & lesbian divorce in Massachusetts.

Same-Sex Massachusetts Divorce Website

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How long will I get Alimony for?
How long do I have to pay Alimony for?

The new law also limits the duration of General Term Alimony. General Term Alimony ends upon:


When duration of marriage is 20 years or less, general term alimony shall terminate no later than a date certain in accordance with durational limits set forth below:

The deviation factors which could result in a different amount or duration are:

Even if a duration is set in an order, most of the time alimony is merged into the Divorce Agreement, which means that the amount and duration of alimony can be changed at a later date if either party files a Complaint for Modification and is able to demonstrate to the Court a significant material change in circumstances that warrants a change in the order.

To view the duration formula and calculate your Alimony with a printable Worksheet click here.

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What is included in income for calculating Alimony?

Under the new law, income shall be defined as set forth in the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. However, two types of income are specifically excluded:

(1) Capital gain income and dividend and interest income which derives from assets equitably divided between the parties under Section 34; and (2) Gross income which the court has already considered for setting a child support order whether pursuant to the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines or otherwise; provided that nothing in this section shall limit the court's discretion to cast a presumptive child support order under the Child Support Guidelines in terms of unallocated or undifferentiated alimony and child support.

Income can include income not recognized or taxed by the IRS and if you are unsure of what should or should not be included you should consult with your attorney.

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Does a second job count in calculating Alimony?

Under the new law, income from a second job or overtime work shall be presumed immaterial to alimony modification if:

(1) A party works more than a single full-time equivalent position; and

(2) The second job or overtime commenced after entry of the initial order.

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Is Alimony tax deductible?

Alimony is income to the Recipient and should be included as taxable income on the Recipients state and federal income tax returns. Alimony is tax deductible to the Payor, and sometimes even payments made on behalf of an ex-spouse, such as health insurance payments may also be tax deductible. You should consult with your attorney to discuss the specific facts of your case if you think you might be making other payments which could be tax deductible as well.

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Does Alimony Stop at Retirement?

Under the old law, alimony did not necessarily end upon retirement. Although retirement does typically represent a material and significant change in circumstances, warranting a Modification, whether or not alimony will end or be reduced was still dependent on all of the statutory factors. In a decision published on November 9, 2009, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rejected a Husband's argument that his alimony should end upon retirement. Rudolph F. Pierce vs. Carnecie G. Pierce, SJC - 10381, Nov. 9, 2009.

This was one of the major changes under the new law: Alimony presumptively ends, upon the payor attaining the full retirement age when he or she is eligible for the old-age retirement benefit under the United States Old-Age, Disability, and Survivors Insurance Act, 42 U.S.C. 416. The presumption can be rebutted but it requires clear and convincing evidence.

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What is Full Retirement Age?

Pursuant to The Alimony Reform Act of 2011, General Term Alimony ends upon the full retirement age of the payor, as defined by Social Security (United States Old-Age, Disability, and Survivors Insurance Act, 42 U.S.C. 416).

Calculate Full Retirement Age:

Choose your Date of Birth*:

DOB:

Your Full Retirement Age for Social Security
and for General Term Alimony under the Alimony Reform Act is:

 years  months


Your Full Retirement Date is:
 


*If you were born in 1945 or before, you are already
eligible for your full Social Security benefit.


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Click here to learn more about Child Support.

 

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FAQ:



What is Alimony?

What are the different types of alimony?

How is the amount of Alimony calculated?

How long will I get Alimony for?

How long do I have to pay Alimony for?

What is included in income for calculating Alimony?

Does a second job count in calculating Alimony?

Is Alimony Support tax deductible?

Does Alimony Stop at Retirement?

What is Full Retirement Age (Full Retirement Age Calculator)?

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