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Determining alimony in Massachusetts

Any Massachusetts resident who is preparing for divorce may be curious as to how spousal support is assigned and whether a former spouse might be required to continue to provide health insurance. A basic overview of the law can sometimes lead to more productive negotiations.

Massachusetts law allows a judge to assign property or assets belonging to one spouse to the other in addition to or instead of spousal support. It is not relevant whether the property was owned prior to the marriage. All property owned by either spouse may be divided and assigned to either spouse, regardless of whose name is on it or when the property was acquired. This is different from other states that protect property a person owned before entering the marriage. Property that may be reassigned includes retirement benefits, military retirement benefits, pensions, annuities, insurance or vested and non-vested benefits.

The amount of alimony is based on several factors, including the length of the marriage, the age and health of each spouse, the conduct of the parties during the marriage, skills and employability of the spouses and each party's needs. A judge may consider the extent to which each spouse contributed to the acquisition of the property, whether a spouse contributed as a homemaker and the needs of any minor children. When spousal support is ordered, the spouse will also be required to provide health insurance if the other spouse cannot obtain coverage. This order does not reduce the amount of alimony.

When spouses separate, a lawyer may be able to help a client negotiate hot-button issues such as the duration and amount of spousal support. If the parties cannot agree, the lawyer can go to court and file a motion requesting an appropriate amount of support.

Source: malegislature.gov, "Alimony or assignment of estate; determination of amount; health insurance", September 14, 2014

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