Alimony/Maintenance/Spousal Support in Massachusetts

Alimony is payment made by one party to the other after the divorce, either by court order or by mutual agreement. This type of post-divorce payment is also sometimes referred to as maintenance.  In Massachusetts, alimony is generally not paid in addition to child support.  If the non-custodial parent has sufficient income, the court may grant both alimony and child support.  Alimony for an extended period of time is usually only granted in the case of "long-term" marriages.  In Massachusetts, these are defined as 20 years or more.

Alimony awards are less likely in a short-term marriage, or where both parties have relatively equal incomes and earning capacities.  If alimony is awarded in the context of a short-term or medium-term marriage, it is more likely to be time-limited.  If the payor spouse has a large and long-term child support payment to meet, an award of alimony to the payee spouse while child support is being paid is less likely.  

Chapter 208: Section 34 of the Massachusetts States is the authority for awarding alimony in a Massachusetts divorce case. This section of the Code is reproduced  below:

Section 34. Upon divorce or upon a complaint in an action brought at any time after a divorce, whether such a divorce has been adjudged in this commonwealth or another jurisdiction, the court of the commonwealth, provided there is personal jurisdiction over both parties, may make a judgment for either of the parties to pay alimony to the other.

In addition to or in lieu of a judgment to pay alimony, the court may assign to either husband or wife all or any part of the estate of the other, including but not limited to, all vested and nonvested benefits, rights and funds accrued during the marriage and which shall include, but not be limited to, retirement benefits, military retirement benefits if qualified under and to the extent provided by federal law, pension, profit-sharing, annuity, deferred compensation and insurance. In determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be paid, or in fixing the nature and value of the property, if any, to be so assigned, the court, after hearing the witnesses, if any, of each party:


  • shall consider the length of the marriage,
  • the conduct of the parties during the marriage,
  • the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income,
    vocational skills, employability,
  • estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties
  • and the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income.

In fixing the nature and value of the property to be so assigned, the court shall also consider the present and future needs of the dependent children of the marriage.

The court may also consider the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates and the contribution of each of the parties as a homemaker to the family unit.

When the court makes an order for alimony on behalf of a spouse, said court shall determine whether the obligor under such order has health insurance or other health coverage available to him through an employer or organization or has health insurance or other health coverage available to him at reasonable cost that may be extended to cover the spouse for whom support is ordered. When said court has determined that the obligor has such insurance or coverage available to him, said court shall include in the support order a requirement that the obligor do one of the following: exercise the option of additional coverage in favor of the spouse, obtain coverage for the spouse, or reimburse the spouse for the cost of health insurance. In no event shall the order for alimony be reduced as a result of the obligor's cost for health insurance coverage for the spouse.

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