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Alimony and Spousal Support

Will You Receive or Pay Alimony?

For a spouse in a long term marriage, usually but not always a wife, especially one who has been out of the work force for much of her adult life, the prospect of living without financial support from her husband is extremely frightening. Similarly for a spouse who has financially supported the family, usually the husband, the thought of continuing to support his wife for a long period after the marriage is over, may seem terribly unfair.

Unlike child support, which is largely determined by the Child Support Guidelines, Massachusetts law regarding alimony is much more complex and subject to an analysis of the factors set out in the law. Judges have more discretion in determining whether to order alimony at all and, if so, how much. Whether there should be alimony at all, how much, and for how long, are all issues that require an experienced divorce attorney.

Old Law, New Law 

Up until March 2012 alimony shared a statute with division of properrty. M.G.L. c. 208 section 34 set forth the factors that a judge was to consider both for allocating assets and deciding whether alimony should be paid. Typically alimony was for spouses, usually wives, in long term marriages, and if alimony was awarded it was for life, or until remarriage of the wife, or death of one of the parties. Sometimes the party paying alimony could return to court and have it modified bases on a significant change of circumstances, such as permanent job less, serious illness, or actual retirement.

In response to an extensive lobbying campaign and a widespread feeling that the existing law was outdated and unfair, the legislature passed a bill called the Alimony Reform Act, which took effect in March, 2012. The law is M.G.L. c. 208, sections 48-55. The factors for determining whether or not there should be alimony are similar but not identical to the factors for division of assets in M.G.L. c. 208 section 34. There are now different types of alimony: rehabilitative alimony, transitional alimony, reimbursement, and general term alimony. The first three, rehabilitative, transitional, and reimbursement are new concepts in Massachusetts, and all are intended as short term. General Term alimony is closest to traditional alimony, but with new guidelines for determining how long it should be in place, as well as guidelines for calculating alimony. Cohabitation by the party receiving alimony, essentially living together, triggers at least a suspension and can trigger a termination of alimony. And in most cases alimony will stop when the party paying alimony reaches retirement age (currently age 66), regardless as to whether he or she actually retires. These are sweeping changes and it is more important than ever to have a skilled experienced family law attorney to assist you in navigating this complex and evolving area of the law.

Still no “palimony” in Massachusetts

Alimony is only available for people who are or have been married to each other. In this way it is different from child support, which applies to everyone who has children, and similar to property division, as there is generally no right to have property divided unless it is actually in both parties’ names.

The Law Office of Sanford I. Furman has over 30 years  experience in dealing with alimony issues. Attorney Furman has been assisting people in obtaining and defending alimony, and is well trained to assist you as the new law takes shape.

As with other aspects of family law, it is important to have an experienced attorney who can help negotiate the best arrangement for you, and who is able to take the case to trial if necessary.

Free Initial Consultation

Please contact the Law Office of Sanford I. Furman by phone or e-mail if you have an alimony issue to schedule a free consultation. Sanford I. Furman is a skilled trial lawyer representing people throughout greater Boston, including Wellesley, Brookline and Brighton, and the Metro west areas of Framingham and Natick, Massachusetts. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged by appointment.