When can I stop paying alimony to my former spouse?

Spousal support is the award of financial support from one individual to another following the divorce of the involved parties. In Massachusetts, the duration of how long one party must pay and how long the other will receive alimony depends on a number of factors. While some events can simply terminate monthly alimony payments, in other cases, alimony length is based on the number of years that the former couple was married.

According to the General Laws of Massachusetts, remarriage can end an alimony obligation. If the alimony-receiving spouse remarries after the divorce, the money he or she received from the former spouse can be cut off. When a paying spouse remarries, however, his or her alimony obligation is generally unaffected.

Death can also terminate an alimony obligation. If the receiving spouse dies, alimony ends because there is no one who is owed through survivorship. If the paying spouse dies, the obligation generally does not transfer to another party.

When neither death nor remarriage cuts off alimony, a court will stipulate how long the alimony should last based upon how long the preceding marriage survived. Generally, shorter marriages result in alimony scheduled for shorter durations. Marriages that last more than ten years can result in alimony schedules that endure for longer periods of time. Massachusetts’s courts can even award indefinite alimony when the couple subject to the order was married for more than two decades.

The alimony schedule that a court sets is based on many factors and is unique to the couple it applies to. The above information has been provided as general information and should not be treated as advice. Divorcing or divorced couples dealing with alimony issues or other divorce legal problems should learn more about their options. Obtain legal guidance could help protect the rights and interests of both parties.

Historical basis for the payment of alimony

Alimony is a legal vehicle by which a person is required to pay money to his or her former spouse that may be used for financial support. Here in Massachusetts, a man can pay a woman support and vice versa, though historically men were the parties mandated to pay support to their former wives. This post looks at some of the historical basis on which modern alimony laws are created.

In an article written for the National Paralegals College, alimony payments were originally described as support mandated from ecclesiastical courts that did not permit couples to divorce. In such courts, a couple could only secure a separation, and, because the couple was still technically married, the husband was made to continue to financially support his spouse.

When divorce was later recognized by American courts, a party often had to prove that fault was the reason for the marriage’s failure. Thus, without proof of fault on the husband’s part it could be challenging for a wife to get support from her ex. It can be presumed based on this information that if a wife’s actions caused a couple to divorce that she generally would not expect to receive monetary support in the form of alimony from her soon-to-be ex-husband.

Modern spousal support takes on a different form and in Massachusetts calculations are run to determine if and how much financial support a person should receive from his or her former partner. Fault is one of the factors that a court may look at and it still can factor into the size of a spousal support award.

Individuals who are going through divorce may have questions about alimony and whether they will receive or will have to pay spousal support after their marriages are terminated. Such questions cannot be answered directly by the information contained in this post, which is only provided as a general overview of alimony in its historical context. For specific guidance on personal alimony issues, readers of this blog may choose to consult their own family law attorneys.

What kinds of alimony may a Massachusetts court award?

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is the payment of money from one individual to another after they divorce. Generally, the spouse who is more financially capable will be given the legal obligation to support, for a set time, the other spouse. Alimony is intended to give spouses with no or lower earning capacities the opportunity to start over when their income-earning other-halves move out.

However, just as marriages may take on different forms and characters, so too may alimony vary based on the statuses of the couples it seeks to support. Massachusetts courts may award four different kinds of alimony during or after the divorces of couples appearing before them.

Perhaps the most recognizable form of spousal support is general term alimony. This type of alimony will vary in length depending upon how long the divorcing couple was married. It involves the earning spouse paying support to the non-earning spouse for a length of time after their divorce is finalized.

Another type of spousal support is called transitional alimony. This form of alimony is for couples who have been married for five years or fewer. The alimony is generally paid in a lump sum from one spouse to the other and concludes once that single payment is made.

A third type of support is rehabilitative alimony. This form of alimony differs from general term alimony in one important way: it anticipates that the spouse receiving the payments will be able to support him or herself at a future date. It is not intended to permanently sustain the receiving spouse, but rather helps that individual get to the point that he or she may financially function without help.

Finally, alimony may take on the form of a reimbursement. This type of support is for couples with short-term marriages and allows one spouse to give back to the other any financial support that may have gotten the paying spouse through school or into a new field or profession. It can be paid in a lump sum or over time.

The circumstances of a marriage will dictate the type of alimony that a spouse receives or is asked to pay. Please note that the information contained in this post is offered as information only and should not be read as specific legal advice. Individuals who have specific alimony questions may work with Massachusetts-based family law attorneys.

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