Alimony, or spousal support, is available in a divorce or separation where the needy spouse can demonstrate that there is a pressing financial need, and the paying spouse has the ability to pay. These payments are in addition to a child support order that may affect the decision whether to award spousal support.
The decision as to whether you are entitled to alimony in Massachusetts is determined by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 208 Section 34 and the Alimony Reform Act of 2011. The combined incomes of the parties are considered in this determination. If you and your spouse have unemancipated children and your combined incomes are less than $250,000, alimony will likely not be awarded. If your combined incomes exceed $250,000, then child support calculations are based on the first $250,000.
You and your spouse can also decide between yourselves as to whether alimony will be paid, in what amount, and for how long. You should consult with a Boston divorce lawyer if this is an issue.
What is Income?
According to the IRS, income is from whatever source derived. A Boston court will look at the following as sources of income:
- Rental income
- Stock dividends
- Investment income
If income fluctuates or is seasonal, the court may assess the income on a percentage of income received weekly or monthly.
The paying party may not understate income or intentionally decrease it. If the court finds this has occurred, the judge can assess what the party’s actual income would be based on the available evidence as to that spouse’s ability to earn.
The court will also not award an amount that does not exceed the recipient’s spouse’s needs or that is 30% to 35% of the difference in income. Also, be aware that as recipient, alimony is taxable income, although the tax laws regarding alimony are changing as of January 1, 2019.
Factors a Court Considers
If you are asking for support payments, you and your Boston divorce lawyer need to review the factors a Boston court will consider:
- Age and health of the parties
- Length of marriage
- Employable skills
- Each spouse’s income
- What each spouse contributed to the marriage, economically and non-economically
- Lifestyle maintained during the marriage
- Lost opportunities suffered by spouse or sacrificed for the benefit of the other spouse
Some of these factors may require investigation and extensive discovery if the issue of alimony is disputed.
Temporary or Pendente Lite Spousal Support
You may request temporary spousal support as soon as the divorce petition is filed. You will need to file the appropriate financial statements that your Boston divorce lawyer can help you prepare. If you are opposing alimony, then your attorney should file the necessary documents in opposition.
Your financial affidavit should detail the expenses that you are having difficulty paying such as groceries, rent, mortgage, insurance, car payments, utility bills, health insurance, and food. If you lack employment or vocational skills because you have been out of the labor market for 10-years, then support will likely be awarded for re-training or schooling. If you have limited employment opportunities, a Boston court may award you recurring support payments to maintain the lifestyle you led during the marriage.
How long the payment of alimony will be is generally dependent on the length of the marriage. These limits are:
- If under 5-years, no longer than ½ the length of the marriage
- Between 5 and 10-years, no more than 60% of the length of the marriage
- Between 10 and 15-years, no more than 70% of its length
- Between 15 and 20-years, no more than 80% of its length
- If more than 20-years, no limit.
In rare cases, a judge can deviate from these guidelines if the limitations would result in an inequitable result.
Spousal support can be decreased if the recipient spouse cohabitates with another person in a dating relationship for more than 3-months. Once the paying spouse retires, the spouse may request that the payments terminate.
Should you and your spouse have executed a prenuptial agreement in which an amount of alimony was agreed upon, then a court will generally accept it provided that the agreement was valid with all parties making full financial disclosures. If the parties’ financial condition has substantially changed since the agreement was entered, then a court might take that into consideration in determining whether the contracted amount is fair and equitable.
Consult Boston Divorce Lawyer Heather M. Ward
Alimony can be a contentious issue that may require extensive documentation and evidence whether you are requesting it or opposing it. Heather M. Ward is an experienced, knowledgeable and dedicated divorce lawyer who can give you the legal advice and representation you need for this and any other matters affecting or impacting your divorce. Call her for a free consultation at (617) 906-7554.