Types of Alimony

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


John Waldorf

In my humble opinion there should only be one type of alimony, call it what you like. The should be a specific calculation and a specific duration. The whole process needs to be simplified. The more variables inserted into the process the more money it costs to resolve a bad marriage. I also believe that there should be mandatory arbitrations statutes enacted which incorporate right to know disclosure on Marriage Certificates. The State Bar Associations need to step up and be part of the solution to a blatantly unfair situation in our Family Courts.


I know that this can be more complicated than it needs to be–this is EXACTLY why people need to hire an experienced lawyer to help them work through these complications in the law in order to choose the appropriate type of alimony that fits their situation.


John Waldorf

CATO Institute “Overlawyering.
“Overlawyering” occurring is in our New Jersey Family Court Systems every day as well as all throughout our nation. During the divorce process the Family Law attorneys are denuding divorcing couples of all of their money oftentimes bankrupting them in the process. They extort fees from you and threaten to not “show up for court” if you do not pay their fees. They do not tell you up front what the legal fees might be, but willfully take a $5,000 retainer knowing full well that it will cost much more. This is very miss leading and unfair. The Judges habitually award attorney fees which do nothing more than prolong the process and the Attorneys know this. If the Judges stopped awarding attorney fees and both parties knew they would each have to foot their own legal bills the divorce would go much quicker and cost less. We need mandatory arbitration laws in this country which would lessen the legal fees in a divorce and speed the process up. The Courts often order home equity loans be taken out to pay attorney fees. They also order liquidation of IRAs, 401Ks and College 529 accounts to pay the attorneys, this is not fair and usury. Arbitration panels should be used with an Accountant as the arbitor.


I understand that it sometimes feels that attorneys and judges are not “seeing” the people but, they are doing their best. One way to avoid finding yourself in such situations is to use Collaborative attorneys who focus on settlement and interests over positional bargaining. I have actually been working on an upcoming blog post about choosing the process that works best for given clients–stay tuned!

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