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Can I expect to collect alimony?

If you are financially dependent on your spouse during your marriage, you could be especially nervous about what a divorce will mean for you and your financial future.

One thing you might be particularly interested in is alimony, which is financial support that one spouse may be required to pay to another spouse during the pendency of a divorce and/or thereafter thru a Judgment of Divorce. However, before you assume you will or will not collect alimony, you should understand the factors that affect whether and why people receive this type of support. First and foremost, alimony is based on the financial need of the recipient spouse and the financial ability of the paying spouse.

Factors that determine alimony awards

There are numerous factors that Massachusetts courts will consider before awarding or denying a request for alimony. These factors include:

  • The length of your marriage
  • Your income and your ex’s income
  • Both people’s age and health status
  • The lifestyle you maintained while married
  • Contributions to the marriage, both financial and non-financial
  • Whether and to what extent the marriage resulted in lost financial opportunities

Keep in mind that you do not have to leave alimony decisions in the hands of a judge. You could negotiate an agreement for alimony with the help of an attorney, or you could enforce the terms of a prenuptial agreement, if you have one, that address support.

Duration of support

If you do receive alimony, understand that there are guidelines regarding the type and duration of these payments. There are four types of alimony in Massachusetts:

  • General term alimony, which is available to financially-dependent spouses for a period of time dictated by the length of the marriage
  • Transitional alimony, which is short-term or one-time payments intended to help the recipient transition financially out of the marriage
  • Rehabilitative alimony, which is support that lasts until the recipient is able to support himself or herself
  • Reimbursement alimony, which is a means of providing financial reimbursement to the recipient for contributions during a marriage that aided the paying party

Making your case with legal support

With all this in mind, you should recognize that spousal support matters  are different for everyone, and awards will depend on the specific elements of each divorcing couple’s situation. It can also be a highly contentious process, considering the financial ramifications. As such, it is wise to have experienced legal counsel help you pursue a fair outcome.


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