The Basics: How Alimony Works
When a married couple seeks a separation or divorce, one consideration of their case might include alimony. Alimony, also referred to as “spousal support,” is a court-ordered payment provided to one of the spouses in a compromising financial situation. This individual might make less income, or generate no income at all.
In other words, the primary breadwinner of the family will likely be responsible for funding the spouse with lesser income in one of the following four types of alimony scenarios:
- General term alimony—pay based on the length of a marriage to a spouse financially dependent on the other spouse
- Rehabilitative alimony—temporary pay given to a spouse that will be able to support themselves in the near future
- Reimbursement alimony—a one-time payment or agreed upon sum and duration to reimburse education, job training or related expenses
- Transitional alimony—a one-time payment or agreed upon sum and duration to support relocation or lifestyle change, post-divorce
Alimony is not a factor in every divorce case, and is granted on a case-by-case basis. As an example, the spouse requesting financial support might have taken care of the home and family in lieu of a job. Taking on this role during the marriage therefore hinders his or her ability to financially support themselves and/or their children post-divorce without any financial help.
As specific circumstances dictate alimony decisions in court, our team of family lawyers can help you build the right strategies, whether you're paying, or seeking, spousal support. From alimony arrangements to negotiations to settlements—we'll fight for the best solution for you.
How is Alimony Calculated?
Unlike child support laws and guidelines, many states base alimony decisions on the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act. A judge will decide how, when and how much, alimony will be granted to a specific spouse and whether lump sum, on a continuous basis, short- or long-term is appropriate.
Some spouses might be able to agree on a spousal support arrangement outside of the Court System, though without a legally binding contract, the breadwinner spouse can change the payment amount and/or stop paying altogether. Having alimony expertise and legal counsel at your disposal like The Law Offices of Matthew T. Desrochers will help both parties identify and agree to reasonable terms and should obstacles such as non-payment of alimony arise, our team can facilitate alimony modification or litigation to get your financial support back on track.
Court Systems adhere to Massachusetts State Law and review the following, specific criteria to make this decision:
- Length of marriage
- Age of both spouses
- Health of both spouses
- Income, employment and employability of both individuals, including employability through reasonable effort and additional training, if necessary
- Economic and non-economic contribution of both parties
- Marital lifestyle
- Ability of both people to maintain the marital lifestyle
- Lost economic opportunity as a result of the marriage
- Other relevant factors, as deemed by the Court
Along the same lines, and also according to Massachusetts State Law, typically the breadwinner spouse will be responsible for the receiving spouse's need or 30 to 35 percent of the difference between the parties' gross incomes, which is established at the time of the order.
To get an estimate of alimony support based on your personal financial picture, an alimony calculator is a helpful step in understanding the facts and figures that go into determining a payment plan.
Who is Eligible for Alimony?
The purpose of alimony is to ensure both spouses can easily maintain their former lifestyle post-divorce. To qualify for alimony support, the receiving spouse must prove financial hardship and make a case for monetary assistance, whether temporary or long-term.
Here's a real-life example of a spouse that might qualify for alimony and why:
A husband who files for divorce earns $5,000 per month. His wife stays home with three young children and earns no income. Under the state's formula, she's entitled to $1,650 child support per month. In the instance she convinces the judge her total rock bottom needs, including a house payment, is $2,300. If the judge buys her story and believes her husband can afford it, she would be awarded $650 in spousal support: $2,300 minus $1,650.
Once spousal support has been set and agreed upon, it can't be changed or altered without judge consent. Oftentimes alimony is required for a specific period of time and the breadwinner spouse must comply. Any changes to your situation or your spouses must be shared with your attorney partner, and modification requests run through the Court System for approval.
The receiving spouse might be in any one of the following positions to need or require alimony:
- In need of, and looking for, full-time employment
- In need of necessary job training
- Looking at relocating
- Purchasing or renting a new home or residence
- Unable to manage basic, everyday expenses
How Do I Get Started?
As your potential attorney partner, our style isn't to sell, but instead, arm you with helpful guidance that allows you to make the right decision. If you're simply trying to better understand alimony in your divorce case, in a position to receive or pay alimony, consider turning to our team of experts when you're ready to discuss your unique situation. We're here to help.
Ready for a free, no-strings-attached consultation? Call us toll-free: 978-851-2291.
The Law Offices of Matthew T. Desrochers provides services to the following counties—Essex, Suffolk and Middlesex.