Monday, January 16, 2012

Massachusetts alimony reform law – alimony formula

I have heard many people talk about the new alimony reform law as containing a “formula” for alimony. In my opinion, this is not quite true. The new law contains a formula for the maximum amount of alimony a person can receive. The formula also has conditions that must be met before alimony can be awarded. This formula starts by calculating the length of time that is counted for the marriage. It then limits the income that can be considered for payment of alimony. Finally, it sets forth a math formula for calculating the maximum amount of alimony to be awarded. The law sets forth many factors and gives judges great discretion to grant or deny alimony.

The length of time counted as the marriage to determine alimony can include time before marriage if the couple cohabitation and combined their finances. A couple that lived together for ten years, got married and then separated after five years could have a fifteen year marriage for alimony purposes.

Income that can be considered for alimony does not include income that is used to calculate child support. Since the child support guidelines consider combined income up to $250,000.00, alimony won't be awarded in addition to child support unless the combined income exceeds $250,000.00. In addition, passive income from assets that are divided between the parties may also be excluded.

Once a Judge determines the length of the marriage and the income available for alimony calculations, the Judge must then consider the numerous factors listed in the statute. If the court finds that alimony is to be awarded, the law limits the amount of alimony to 30% to 35% of the difference between the two incomes.

This math formula causes many people to describe the new law as containing a formula for alimony. In my opinion, this ignores the requirement in the law for the court to consider many factors before granting alimony. In addition, there is another limit on the amount of alimony to be awarded. Alimony can only be granted if the recipient needs the money to maintain the standard of living of the marriage. This standard of living also acts as an upper limit on the amount of alimony granted.

Alimony is a complicated topic.  An experienced divorce lawyer can help you understand how the alimony law applies to your particular situation.

1 comment:

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