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Alimony in an Uncontested Divorce

In many divorce cases, the subject of alimony comes up. During a marriage, both parties get accustomed to a certain financial standard, both want to retain as much of this standard as possible. When one spouse has been making significantly more money than the other, alimony in an uncontested divorce might be a factor to consider.

What’s Considered in Alimony Calculations?

In Massachusetts, alimony is far from a given. The Alimony Reform Law of 2013 made it far easier to determine whether a person is entitled to alimony or not, and whether the payment should be temporary or indefinite. The law considers several factors when calculating the conditions of alimony in an uncontested divorce. These include

  • How long the couple was married – Indefinite alimony is normally reserved for situations where the marriage lasted at least 20 years, but judges are still able to overrule this. For shorter marriages, alimony duration is normally is limited to half the length of the marriage.
  • The incomes of each person – The Massachusetts alimony system is designed to keep both people involved from income shock after a divorce, but often some sacrifices will need to be made simply because two households are being maintained instead of one. When both are earning close to the same amount, alimony usually isn’t considered.
  • The income potential of the person receiving alimony – In some cases, a person can start off receiving alimony because they worked very few or no hours outside the home. Often, their job has been to be in charge of the couple’s social obligations and to help the other maintain a certain image. This person may not have recent income, but they have maintained skills that would be highly valued in the workplace.
  • Whether or not the person receiving alimony is cohabitating or married with a new person- New provisions in Massachusetts law recognize that the need for alimony is greatly reduced or eliminated when they are in a new serious relationship, as well as the person paying alimony’s right not to provide support for his or her ex-spouse’s new companion.
  • Whether or not the couple has children-  Child support takes priority over alimony, and the first $250,000 of combined income is allocated towards child support rather than alimony.

Even when alimony isn’t granted, there are other forms of spousal support that may be ordered. These include

Ups and Downs of the New System

When the law went into effect in 2012, many went as far as to point to it as an example in alimony reform that other states in the nation should follow. Critics of the old law also saw the new guidelines as something that could potentially motivate alimony recipients to take steps to become more self sufficient. They also saw unjust component of the old law that allowed many people to continue to receive alimony for life, even when they were married for a very short time.

It didn’t take much convincing to pass the new alimony law. It was unanimously approved by the Massachusetts legislature, but unfortunately some loose ends were left behind. Most notably is the fact that the law does not apply to alimony cases that were settled before March 1, 2012. Those cases are still bound to their original orders even when they directly contradict the new law. In other words, it is not retroactive in most instances. One small alteration that is possible is that those who were ordered to pay lifetime alimony, regardless of their ex-spouse’s future income or relationships have the option of asking that the length of time they continue to pay alimony is modifiable. The actual amount paid is not up for negotiation. When it comes to alimony, every situation is different. A Massachusetts family law attorney at Infinity Law Group can help you determine how the new Massachusetts alimony reform affects you.