How Is Alimony Decided In A Massachusetts Divorce?

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Massachusetts recently changed the way it handles alimony cases. In the past, when Massachusetts couples divorced, state courts would generally order alimony payments between 30-35% of the difference in gross income between spouses. But a 2019 change in federal tax law made it so alimony payors can no longer deduct alimony payments from their taxable income. For many payors, this change has made it tougher to satisfy their alimony obligation.

While the 30-35% figure remains on Massachusetts’s books, most judges now aim to reach an alimony figure that falls between 20-25% of the difference in gross income between spouses. That said, alimony remains discretionary, and the final figure can depend on factors outside tax rules. People may also need an expert’s assistance to help judges reach the 20-25% figure from the old rules.

Assessing Financial Need

The amount of alimony a recipient receives ultimately depends on their financial need. For instance, if a Massachusetts couple has similar earning power, and the recipient’s degree of need is low, then it’s possible the payments will only cover what they need to meet their expenses, even if this figure falls beneath the 20% threshold. Conversely, if a Massachusetts couple has a great discrepancy in earning power, the recipient may qualify for payments exceeding the 25% threshold.

A thorough financial statement is essential in accounting for financial need. Recipients must make sure they document all their expenses, no matter their rate of frequency, so they can receive full payments. Missing any expenses can cause recipients to receive less alimony than they are entitled to.

The Length Factor

One major concern people have about alimony is how long it will last. Massachusetts determines general term alimony length using a formula based on marriage length. The guidelines are as follows:

  • Marriages up to five years: Alimony will last up to 50% the number of months of marriage.
  • Marriages from five years up to 10 years: Alimony will last up to 60% the number of months of marriage.
  • Marriages from 10 years up to 15 years: Alimony length will last up to 70% the number of months of marriage.
  • Marriages from 15 years up 20 years: Alimony length will last up to 80% the number of months of marriage.
  • Marriages longer than 20 years: Alimony will last indefinitely.

Keep in mind that factors like cohabitation or remarriage affect the length and amount of alimony. Massachusetts alimony recipients who cohabitate with a new partner for longer than three consecutive months may no longer qualify for alimony. Those who still qualify for alimony could have their payments reduced or suspended. When an alimony recipient remarries, alimony payments will terminate.

Massachusetts divorces generally take anywhere from six to nine months to complete. Given the complex nature of alimony, couples will want to work together – as much as they possibly can – to reach a fair figure and length in this amount of time. Each spouse will need their own attorney, who will be vital in representing their interests.


The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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