Prior to March 1, 2012, Massachusetts had essentially one form of alimony, general term alimony, which was the periodic payment of support to a spouse that could theoretically go on forever. But After March 1, 2012, a new Alimony Reform Act went into effect. In the Act the Massachusetts Legislature implemented durational limits making forever payments of general term alimony more unlikely and it created three additional categories of alimony to be considered at the time of divorce; the three categories being rehabilitative alimony, reimbursement alimony, and transitional alimony.
Under the new alimony statute, the length of the marriage now determines for how long general term alimony will be paid. If the marriage is less than five (5) years then payments will be one half (1/2) the number of months of the marriage, if more than five (5) years but less than ten (10) years then payments will last no more than sixty percent (60%) of the number of months of the marriage, if more than ten (10) years but less than fifteen (15) years then the length of payments will be seventy (70%) of the number of months of the marriage and if more than fifteen (15) years but less than twenty (20) years then payments are eighty percent (80%). If the marriage is more than twenty (20) years then alimony payments can be indefinite or up to some triggering event like retirement of the payor or the cohabitation of the ex-spouse payee.
In circumstances when a spouse who needs alimony can become economically self-sufficient by a certain point in time by obtaining a new job or by completing job training, rehabilitative alimony may be a more equitable solution. With rehabilitative alimony payments are made periodically for not more than five (5) years and can end when the event making the spouse self-sufficient occurs or when the spouse remarries prior to the five years.
However, reimbursement alimony may be more appropriate when it seems unlikely that a spouse may become self-sufficient but it is clear that during marriage he or she had provided economic or non-economic contributions to the financial resources of the spouse who will be paying alimony, resources like enabling the spouse to complete an education or job training. Reimbursement alimony can be paid periodically or just once and is only an option for marriages of five (5) years or less. It can terminate upon the death of the recipient spouse or on a date certain.
Periodic or one-time payments of alimony can also be paid for the sole purpose of helping a spouse transition to an adjusted lifestyle or location. This type of transitional alimony is only available for marriages of five (5) years or less and can terminate upon the death of the receiving spouse or a date certain not to exceed three (3) years from the date of divorce.
The Alimony Reform Act has undoubtedly changed the landscape for alimony payments; however, case law is continually evolving the way it is applied in divorce cases. It is important to look out for new developments before entering into any agreements or presenting an argument in court.