Simplifying the Complicated: How Does Alimony Work?

When You’re Wondering, “How Does Alimony Work?” Look to the Experts

Here at Murphy & Rudolf, LLP, we’re well aware of the difficulties tied with divorce. We’ve answered many questions about alimony and its complications for years, and now, we’re addressing them openly. If you’re scratching your head at the question, “how does alimony work?,” read on to discover whether your situation qualifies, what determines alimony duration, and the four key forms of alimony enforced in Massachusetts.

For a free expert consultation rather than self-education, make sure to call us at (508) 570-3037.

How Qualification Is Decided

To start, either party is capable of requesting spousal support from the other person – as long as a genuine need for financial support has been established, and the requested spouse is able to pay. Along with this first step, a judge will look at a few other defining factors before qualifying alimony payments. These primarily include how long the marriage lasted, the age and health of each person, income levels, and employment history of both parties. Some other factors may influence the judge’s decision as well:

  • Lifestyle of the marriage
  • Employ-ability and professional skills of each spouse
  • Economic sacrifice due to the marriage

Alimony Duration Depends on Marriage Length

On the other hand, the duration of an alimony term is completely reflective of how long the marriage lasted. Any marriage in Massachusetts that lasted more than 20 years could result in permanent alimony, otherwise known as “lifetime alimony” (MGL c.208, 49(b)).

The duration of an alimony term increases with longer marriages. So – if you’ve been married for 15 to 20 years, the alimony term can last up to 80% of the duration of the marriage (MGL c.208 49(b)). This goes down to 70% for marriages lasting between 10 to 15 years, 60% for five to 10 years, and 50% if a marriage splits after up to five years. Other types of alimony have different protocols, such as reimbursement, rehabilitative alimony, and transitional support.

The 4 Types of Alimony in MA

General Term

“General term” refers to when a higher-earning spouse sends payments to the lesser-earning partner. As long as there’s a proven financial need, the court will approve a case for general alimony. As discussed prior, the duration of these terms is decided according to the marriage length.


For marriages that lasted less than five years, and involved a financial sacrifice for another spouse’s education or profession, reimbursement is a common option. Courts often agree and approve requests for a spouse to repay the medical bills covered by their ex-partner in the past.


This kind of support is only short-term, and court orders typically approve it for a set amount of time. The term is meant to give the supported spouse a reasonable amount of time to get settled into self-sufficiency.

Transitional Support

To cover the expenses of constructing a new lifestyle post-divorce, transitional support requires the higher-earning spouse to send payments either by lump-sum amounts or in periodic increments. In order to qualify for transitional support, the marriage had to last less than five years.

Still Wondering, “How Does Alimony Work?”

After hearing the complicated answer to the question, “how does alimony work?” consider hiring a professional instead of teaching yourself these confusing, state-specific legalities. The associates at Murphy & Rudolf, LLP, are just a phone call away at (508) 570-3037, where you can request a free consultation. Interested clients can also visit the website for more blog content, or fill out a contact form to get in touch.


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