Massachusetts Alimony Laws and Guidelines: All About Spousal Support in “MA”

The alimony laws governing spousal support in Massachusetts is different from what is obtainable in other states. Read further to grasp the peculiarity of the MA alimony law.

Also referred to as “spousal support” or “spousal maintenance” in Old Colony State, alimony is the series of payments made by one spouse (the payor spouse) to another (the supported or payee spouse) after the divorce.

Before the alimony payments commence, there has to be a written order or agreement which requires the payor to support the payee with a stipulated amount of money.

This agreement eliminates any disputes in the future about why the payment was made or when it’s not made.

All 50 states in America are alimony states, meaning states that have enacted laws permitting a spouse who cannot work full time or with a lower income to request payments from the other spouse to support themselves after a divorce.

Type of Alimony Laws Practiced in MA

types of alimony

Types of alimony in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, judges can mandate alimony in four different forms: general term, rehabilitative, reimbursement, and transitional support. (Massachusetts General Laws ch. 208 48 (2018).)

General Term Alimony in Massachusetts

General term alimony is a monetary payment made by the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning or unemployed spouse. Only if the asking spouse can demonstrate a financial need will the court grant universal alimony. The period of general term alimony payments is determined by the length of the marriage.

Here is a table to explain how long the Mass General Term alimony can last in Massachusetts:

Length of marriage        Length of general term alimony

up to 5 years                    No more than half the number of months the couple has been married.

5 up to 10 years               Not more than 60 percent of the total number of months in the marriage

10 up to 15 years             Not more than 70 percent of the total number of months in the marriage

15 up to 20 years             Not more than 80 percent of the total number of months in the marriage

20 or more years            Indefinite

When the recipient spouse cohabits for a sustained period of at least 3 months, general term alimony is suspended, reduced, or canceled. In most cases, alimony should not surpass the recipient’s need of 30 to 35 percent of the gap between the parties’ gross incomes at the time the judgment is granted.

Rehabilitative Alimony in MA

Rehabilitative alimony is only for a limited time, and the court will only award it for as long as it takes the supported spouse to become financially self-reliant.

Judges in MA may grant rehabilitative support in circumstances where the lower-earning spouse is capable of becoming financially self-sufficient but requires financial assistance while pursuing job training or education in order to enter the current labor market.

Reimbursement alimony in Massachusetts

In marriages where one spouse financially contributes to the other’s profession or academic growth, reimbursement alimony is typical. For instance, if one spouse paid for the other’s education during the marriage, the judge may order the degree recipient to repay the spouse who funded it. In Massachusetts, reimbursement alimony is reserved for marriages that last fewer than five years.

Transitional support in MA

Transitional support is a payment made by a higher-earning spouse on a regular or lump-sum basis to assist the supported spouse in adjusting to a new living or location following the divorce. Only divorces with a marriage of fewer than five years are eligible for transitional help.

Who Pays Alimony in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts alimony law, the spouse that makes most of the money will share that income with the other spouse. The idea behind who pays for alimony is to considerably level up the living standard of the dependent spouse to what it was while the marriage was on.

Regarding the sex that pays, alimony in Old Colony State is gender-neutral, meaning either spouse can request support from the other. As long as the alimony can be provided to the requesting spouse, then it will most likely be granted.

So a husband can receive alimony from a wife in Massachusetts if the above conditions are met.

How Long Does Spousal Support Last in MA?

How Long To Pay Alimony

The judge will decide how long alimony payment should last in Massachusetts

The duration to pay alimony in Massachusetts can differ depending on the individual judge and circumstances. However, you should expect to pay spousal support for a duration depending on the length of the marriage.

How to Collect Spousal Support Arrears in Massachusetts

When it comes to collecting spousal support in Massachusetts, you have a few choices if your ex-spouse has failed to make alimony payments as ordered by the court. Debts for spousal support are frequently given priority among debtors under US law.

Factors That Influence Alimony in Massachusetts

The average amount payable as spousal support in Massachusetts after divorce is determined by various factors. But the major factor you have to understand is “the standard of living of the marriage.”

To determine the final amounts for rehabilitative and permanent support in MA, the courts in MA take into consideration the income of the spouses, plus other factors like:

  • earning capacity of each spouse.
  • the ability of the paying spouse to pay, considering assets, the standard of living, earning capacity, as well as earned and unearned income.
  • the extent of contribution the supported spouse gave to the other’s educational pursuit or professional license during the marriage
  • how long the marriage lasted
  • the needs of each spouse
  • the assets and debts of each spouse including separate property
  • each party’s tax consequences
  • the ability of the supported spouse to gain employment without interfering with their children’s care
  • each spouse’s health and age
  • each party’s balance of hardships
  • whether there is a documented history of domestic violence against the children or either party
  • will the dependent spouse be self-supporting within a reasonable period
  • any criminal conviction of an abusive spouse
  • any other factors which the court wishes to consider

This is the main measure the court uses to determine the amount to be paid in Old Colony State. The principle behind the standard of living of the marriage is that after the marriage breakup, both spouses should continue living within the same standard they lived while the marriage lasted.

How Alimony is Calculated in MA

How Alimony is Calculated

How Alimony is Calculated in Massachusetts

The amount to be paid as spousal support in Massachusetts is calculated after considering the above-stated factors. Whichever option is adopted it is reflected in the Alimony Calculator

But to be explicit about how to calculate spousal support in MA, you may need to consult your spousal support attorney.

>>> Massachusetts Spousal Support Calculator

Importance of Using a Skilled Massachusetts Spousal Support Attorney

If you’re getting a divorce in Massachusetts and need to negotiate or re-negotiate spousal support, you’ve definitely got a lot of questions and want to seek competent legal guidance. Though state Supreme Courts have supported lifetime spousal support,
your circumstances may or may not fulfill the requirements. MA courts may judge your case differently based on the merits of you and your previous spouse. There are so many variables to consider.

If you want to get spousal support for the rest of your life or if you want to fight against it in Massachusetts, an expert divorce lawyer can help. Depending on the objective and the desire of the adversary attorney to bargain in good faith, you’ll need attorneys that are both empathetic and strong.

For the convenience of our members, we have an up-to-date directory of MA divorce and spousal support attorneys who can help with a variety of issues. For legal advice and
representation on spousal support that is powerful and well-informed.

Click Here to Get our Free Iowa Alimony recommendation.

FAQ About Massachusetts Alimony Laws

Here are Frequently Asked Questions about spousal support laws in MA:

Can a Husband get Alimony in MA?

Yes. In Massachusetts, alimony payment is gender-neutral, meaning the sex that pays or receives is not the main determinant, but other factors as stated above. For details click here.

Who Qualifies for Alimony in Massachusetts?

Just as either spouse can pay or receive, the party that qualifies to receive spousal support is the dependent party while the marriage lasted. This means that in MA, the spouse that had lesser or no income when the marriage was on is also the one qualified to receive alimony. Click here for details

How Long do you have to be Married to get Alimony in MA?

To understand how long alimony lasts in Massachusetts, you have to take into consideration how long the marriage lasted.

However, bear in mind that there is no limit to the duration you can pay or receive alimony for marriages that lasted 10-20 years or more. Any marriage that lasted below 20 years will not pay nor receive alimony that exceeds 50% of the duration of the marriage.

Is Alimony Tax Deductible in Massachusetts?

Following the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which altered the link between alimony and taxes dramatically in Massachusetts and all over the US, alimony payments are no longer tax deductible for the payer and are no longer recognized as income for the recipient spouse as of January 1, 2019.

Is Alimony Mandatory in Old Colony State?

Alimony is mandatory in Massachusetts as long as one of the spouses earns or owns assets that can be relied upon to support the other spouse after the marriage breaks down.

Can Alimony be increased in Massachusetts?

Alimony amount or duration can be increased or decreased due to changes in the financial circumstances of the parties in different ways, including:

  • an increase or decrease in the income of the alimony recipient
  • if it’s determined that the original alimony awarded is inadequate
  •  loss to the alimony recipient’s financial assets
  • an increase in the justified expenses of the alimony recipient
  • when the financial condition of the receiving spouse fails to improve as originally expected

Can you go to Jail for Not Paying Spousal Support in MA?

Technically, you will not be jailed for not paying alimony in Massachusetts. While there are varying consequences for not paying alimony, you can still end up in jail as a result. Here is how.

If it’s a Massachusetts court-ordered spousal support that you refuse to pay, it means you are in violation of a court order meaning you can be prosecuted for being in contempt of court if contempt proceedings are brought up against you. This could attract a jail term in MA}.

How to Modify Spousal Support in Massachusetts

How to Avoid spousal support

How to Avoid spousal support in Massachusetts

If the asking spouse shows that there has been a major change in situations since the last ruling, the court can modify general term and rehabilitative alimony unless both spouses agree otherwise. The change can be permanent, indefinite, or for a set period of time.

Neither reimbursement nor transitional alimony can be changed.

How to Avoid or End Spousal Support in MA?

In Old Colony State, the spouse paying the alimony can successfully avoid or stop the alimony payment if he/she is able to prove any or all of the following points:

  • that the dependent spouse is guilty of infidelity
  • the spouse proves that he has no source of income
  • the spouse remarries and has to take care of the new spouse however, he/she will continue paying the child support for children if any
  • if the spouse is disabled and unable to earn a living

Alimony Laws in all 50 States

A Alabama  |  AlaskaArizonaArkansas
C CaliforniaColoradoConnecticut
D-H DelawareFloridaGeorgiaHawaii
I IdahoIllinoisIndianaIowa
K-L KansasKentuckyLouisiana
M MaineMarylandMassachusettsMichiganMinnesotaMississippiMissouriMontana
NebraskaNevadaNew HampshireNew JerseyNew MexicoNew YorkNorth CarolinaNorth Dakota
P-S  PennsylvaniaRhode IslandSouth CarolinaSouth Dakota
T-U  TennesseeTexasUtah
V-W  VermontVirginiaWashingtonWest VirginiaWisconsinWyoming

Deborah Kelly

Deborah Kelly

As a proud single mom who has seen it all, I encourage others by sharing my experiences & curating content on divorce, adoption, child & spousal support. My passion also includes spending quality time with my kids and giving back to my community.