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When does Alimony End?


Until 2011, there was no formula enacted or endorsed by the Massachusetts Legislature or the Courts for the calculation of duration of alimony. However, on September 26, 2011, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law The Alimony Reform Act of 2011, which became effective on March 1, 2012. The act provides for multiple types of alimony, and for maximum amounts and duration of alimony.

The new law also limits the duration of General Term Alimony:

General Term Alimony Ends Upon:
  • Remarriage of the recipient;
  • Death of the recipient;
  • Death of the payor (though the court may order life insurance or reasonable security for payment of sums due to the recipient in the event of the payor's death during the alimony term);
  • Except when the court finds that deviation is warranted, upon the expiration of the duration formula calculated below;
  • Upon the cohabitation of the recipient spouse with another person for a continuous period of at least three months (may also result in suspension or reduction instead of termination; 
  • Upon the payor attaining the full retirement age when he or she is eligible for the old-age retirement benefit under the United States Old-Age, Disability, and Survivors Insurance Act, 42 U.S.C. 416.

When duration of marriage is 20 years or less, general term alimony shall terminate no later than a date certain in accordance with durational limits set forth below:
  • Marriage of 5 years or less, general term alimony shall be no greater than one-half the number of months of the marriage.
  • Marriage of 10 years or less, but more than 5 years, general term alimony shall be no greater than 60 per cent of the number of months of the marriage.
  • Marriage of 15 years or less, but more than 10 years, general term alimony shall be no greater than 70 per cent of the number of months of the marriage.
  • If the duration of marriage is 20 years or less, but more than 15 years, general term alimony shall be no greater than 80 per cent of the number of months of the marriage.
  • The court shall have discretion to order alimony for an indefinite length of time for marriages longer than 20 years.

The deviation factors which could result in a different amount or duration are:
  • Advanced age; chronic illness; or unusual health circumstances of either party;
  • Tax considerations applicable to the parties;
  • Whether the payor spouse is providing health insurance and the cost of heath insurance for the recipient spouse;
  • Whether the payor spouse has been ordered to secure life insurance for the benefit of the recipient spouse and the cost of such insurance;
  • Sources and amounts of unearned income, including capital gains, interest and dividends, annuity and investment income from assets that were not allocated in the parties divorce;
  • Significant premarital cohabitation that included economic partnership and/or marital separation of significant duration, each of which the court may consider in determining the length of the marriage;
  • A party's inability to provide for his or her own support by reason of physical or mental abuse by the payor;/li>
  • A party's inability to provide for his or her own support by reason of a party's deficiency's of property, maintenance or employment opportunity; and
  • Upon written findings, any other factor that the court deems relevant and material.

Even if a duration is set in an order, most of the time alimony is merged into the Divorce Agreement, which means that the amount and duration of alimony can be changed at a later date if either party files a Complaint for Modification and is able to demonstrate to the Court a significant material change in circumstances that warrants a change in the order.

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