Massachusetts had a huge change in the alimony law in April 2012. Up until that point, Alimony was generally lifetime alimony. The payer spouse would have to pay alimony until their death. Sometimes in an agreement it would say that alimony would terminate upon retirement, but not always. Sometimes there was no end date. The new alimony law in Mansfield, Massachusetts, that’s what it’s being called generically, sets time limits for how long alimony is payable. That is entirely dependent upon how long the parties have been married. There is a breakdown for 0-5 years, 5-10 years, 10-15 years and 15-20 years. What they take is the number of months you’ve been married and start with a percentage of 55%. It goes up from there. Basically that is the number of months you have to pay alimony for.
After 20 years of marriage, it can be an indefinite term in Mansfield, MA. The caveat to all of this is that the judge looks at the ability of the party, who’s paying the alimony, to pay the alimony and the needs of the recipient party. If the recipient party does not have the need for alimony for whatever reason, then alimony might not get paid. However, the more usual case, where someone’s been the breadwinner throughout the marriage and someone else has a lesser earning capacity, generally, the new alimony law would apply. The other part to the term, and again if you have been married longer, you have to pay a certain percentage based on the number of months you have been married, so it varies with the length of the marriage.
The length of the marriage is computed from the date of the marriage to the date the divorce is served in Bristol County. For instance, we recently had a case at Gould & Berg in Mansfield where they were just on the cusp of reaching the 20 year mark. We wanted to get them in the 15-20 year category, so we acted quickly to serve the divorce complaint.
The other thing to know with alimony is that, again, everything in this area is general. However, the way it is computed now is to take what’s known as the ‘disparity of incomes’. For example, say the payer spouse makes $90,000 year and say the recipient spouse makes $10,000. If you subtract those two, you get $80,000. Then the alimony that’s paid annually would be between 30%-35% of that disparity. So the alimony paid to the recipient spouse would be 30%-35% of the $80,000. Those are the rules regarding the alimony, and when alimony can be modified.
Whether people who had lifetime alimony agreements can modify their alimony depends on what they agreed to at the time of the divorce. In some agreements alimony is modifiable and in others it is not.