With the passage of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 and its subsequent enforcement starting March 1, 2012, Massachusetts couples contemplating or undergoing divorce have suddenly been presented with a wider array of alimony possibilities.
Those who sought divorce prior to the reform act only had one option: General Term. This periodic payment of support by the payor (stereotypically the man) to an economically-dependent recipient has been the widely accepted understanding for years of how alimony works. The duration of alimony didn’t vary much – in most cases, alimony was to be paid indefinitely. Without a formula, the amount varied widely depending on the parties and, if they did not agree, the Judge.
Due to pressure from various special interest groups to make changes in a system some thought was out of step with the times, a legal committee initiated the proposed new law. Legislators then fleshed it out until it evolved into what we have today.
As a result, there are now multiple classifications of alimony. In the absence of an Agreement of the parties, a Court order determines under which category a particular divorce scenario falls.
General Term Alimony is still the most common type, although major modifications as to who qualifies, how long the payor must pay, and what counts as a deviation have occurred.
Additionally, there is currently also Rehabilitative, Reimbursement, and Transitional Alimony.
- Rehabilitative Alimony: This is a periodic payment of support to the recipient spouse with an end in sight. The recipient is expected to become economically self-sufficient within a certain amount of time. This could be as a result of completing job training, finding employment, or receiving a settlement from the payor spouse. At that point, alimony is terminated.
- Reimbursement Alimony: This could be either a periodic or one-time payment of support to a recipient spouse. Only those who have been married for fewer than five years qualify. Its purpose is to compensate the recipient spouse for economic or non-economic contributions to the financial resources of the payor spouse, such as enabling the payor spouse to complete his/her education or job training.
- Transitional Alimony: This also can be either a periodic or one-time payment of support to a recipient spouse. Again, only those married for fewer than five years qualify. Its purpose is to help the recipient spouse transition to an adjusted lifestyle or location as a result of the divorce.
If you’re contemplating divorce, don’t try to determine under which category you think you’ll fall without professional guidance. So far, judges have been ruling all across the spectrum on these issues. It will take time to work out differing interpretations and reach a more consistent viewpoint.
Your wisest move may be to begin working with mediation or Collaborative Practice. This allows for thinking outside the box to come up with creative ways to meet the needs of everyone involved. This is often preferable to putting your futures at the complete mercy of a judge’s interpretation.