Income inequality, alimony and divorce

Experts agree, the family structure in Massachusetts and throughout the United States is changing. A high school degree is no longer enough to land a well-paying blue collar position that promises a cushioned life. These economic shifts impact more than the number of people who are living at and below the poverty line, they also impact divorce cases, when disparity of income applies. Those who have a higher education and a college degree are less likely to experience divorce when compared to someone who only holds a high school diploma. This is due to the fact that there are often few benefits to entering a marriage when one is already successful on their own. In cases where both individuals hold college degrees, income is often equal and stressors within the marriage are significantly lower. In some situations, only one spouse brings in the income that supports both individuals and any children that they may have, even if they both hold college degrees. This might be due to the working spouse’s career choices or other circumstances that ultimately cause the unemployed spouse to stay home. When these couples experience divorce, the spouse that has been home may be entitled to receiving spousal support from the other. Contributions to the marriage are a determining factor in deciding if alimony will be required from one spouse, but a disparity in income can also play a significant role. Divorce cases in which alimony is paid are becoming more frequent with changing family dynamics and

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Massachusetts alimony law reform

One of the biggest events in Massachusetts divorce law to come down in recent years was the overhaul and reform of alimony law. This reform brings back the formerly eliminated idea of lifetime alimony. In 2012, a court order required termination of alimony benefits once the payer reached retirement age. This law was intended to apply to all payers of alimony rather than just those who divorced after March, 2012, but this was not always the case in practice. Recent appeals courts have now issued decisions to end those reform benefits. Three different decisions in January of 2105 have ended the retirement provision in these reforms for those who were divorced prior to the March 2012 cutoff date. Now, modifications to the termination of alimony that were initiated under the reformed alimony laws can only be rescinded if the former recipient of the alimony requests it. Certainly this is problematic for those left in uncertain gray areas who don’t know where they stand. The process of legislation reform regarding alimony law is ongoing, but if you are in this situation and need your rights protected, you would do well to speak to your divorce attorney. The new laws can be confusing and difficult to understand and navigate, and even if you’ve been divorced for years, a qualified divorce attorney will know how to help you best. They can explain where you stand, and help you to work within the bounds of the law to ensure that your alimony agreement remains

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What is the purpose of alimony?

Alimony or spousal support, are payments made by one spouse to the other after a divorce. Many people do not fully understand the point of alimony. Indeed, alimony can be a bit complicated to figure out under Massachusetts’s law. Essentially, the purpose of alimony is to avoid unfair financial effects of the divorce on the spouse who earned less income than the other spouse. For example, alimony can provide a source of financial support to help the recipient spouse get back on his or her feet, develop the skills and experience needed to find employment, and/or continue the same standard of living he or she enjoyed during the marriage. The specific purpose of alimony in any given case depends on the type of alimony. According to Massachusetts law, there are four types of alimony: General term Rehabilitative Reimbursement Transitional General term alimony is for spouses who are financially dependent on their former spouse. This type of alimony is paid periodically, usually on a month-by-month basis, for a set duration. Rehabilitative alimony is intended to help spouses until they can financially support themselves. Due to the nature of this type of alimony, the award is usually for a certain period of time, such as when the recipient spouse finishes a degree, completes job training, or becomes employed. Reimbursement alimony serves to pay spouses back for what they did to contribute to the other spouse’s well-being. For example, alimony can be awarded to reimburse a spouse for paying for the other spouse

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Can alimony be terminated in Massachusetts?

Alimony is received in multiple ways, including spousal support. Those in Massachusetts might wonder if alimony can be terminated. Here are some general rules for receiving and ceasing alimony. A judge is the sole individual who has the power to change general term alimony as long as there is no written agreement that specifically gives instructions for the alimony to remain unchanged. Changing the end date on orders cannot be done. The alimony agreement is usually void if the person receiving alimony gets remarried, either spouse passes away or the spouse that is providing the other with funds reaches their full retirement age. This general term alimony may also be suspended if the spouse receiving the funds lives with another individual. Most surviving independent contracts cannot be changed, unless under extreme circumstances, such as one party going into poverty without a revision. In short, your Massachusetts alimony agreement cannot be changed unless you family and are in dire need or have a unique situation. Reasons for termination are very specific and also unlikely in most cases, such as the spouse dying while paying alimony benefits to the other spouse. Alimony is a big factor with many divorces in these modern days. People often rely on that money to live on and feed their children. Likewise, some who pay alimony do not think that the people they are paying should be receiving benefits. If you have an additional question regarding alimony or spousal support, contacting an experienced attorney might be very

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Retiring may not terminate alimony

In an earlier post, we discussed the various changes that may cause alimony to end, such as if one person died or remarried. Alimony may also end when the person paying the alimony reaches full retirement age. Under Massachusetts law, there is a presumption that a person no longer has to pay alimony when he or she reaches full retirement age. Full retirement age is the age when a person is eligible to receive full Social Security retirement benefits. The retirement age is 65 for people born before 1938. For people born in 1938 or after, the retirement age goes up to 67. There are exceptions to this presumption. In some situations, a judge can order a person to continue paying alimony to his or her ex-spouse even if that person reached the retirement age. The judge must find that there is good cause to enter this order. A judge must consider a number of factors when deciding whether to deviate from the presumptive duration or amount of alimony. These factors include: The age and health of either spouse; Tax considerations; Whether one spouse provides health insurance for the other spouse; Whether one spouse has a life insurance policy naming the other spouse as a beneficiary; Any sources of income or assets that were not allocated in the divorce; Whether either spouse contributed financially to the couple prior to getting married; A spouse’s inability to provide for his or her means due to physical or mental abuse by the other

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How is alimony determined in Massachusetts?

When you are going through divorce, you may become worried when you are trying to figure out how you are going to pay for everything on your own. This can be especially troublesome for those you do not have an established career or have spent the last few years as a househusband or housewife. One way the Massachusetts courts make sure you are not left out on the streets is with alimony. Alimony is essentially financial support paid from one spouse to the other. It is typically deemed “rehabilitative,” meaning it is only paid as long as the receiving spouse needs it to become self-supporting. This can include time to get an education or training, plus finding a viable job. If they are unable to hold a good job due to physical or mental limitations, alimony may be paid indefinitely. If the recipient remarries, their new spouse is responsible for their wellbeing and alimony stops. When it comes to calculating payments, there are a few factors considered. First, the spouses’ financial, emotional and physical states are considered. This includes both the potential recipient and the payer; the courts generally will not assign alimony that leaves the payer in poverty. Next, as mentioned above, the length of time needed for training for a job is considered. Finally, the marriage itself is taken into consideration. This includes two factors: how long you were married, and your standard of living while you were together. If you have been assigned an unfair alimony, or

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How does remarriage affect alimony?

It is not uncommon for people to remarry after getting divorced. A question that often comes up in this scenario is, “Do I still need to pay my ex alimony if he or she remarried?” In most cases, the answer to this question is no. Clearly, remarriage constitutes a change in circumstances. Under Massachusetts law, an award of alimony can be modified or terminated if there has been a material change in either your or your ex-spouse’s financial circumstances. As a result, courts generally terminate alimony when the spouse who receives the alimony remarries. In rare cases, however, the court may order that the alimony continue. The spouse who receives alimony and has remarried has the burden to prove that his or her ex should keep paying support. Specifically, the recipient spouse must prove that extraordinary circumstances warrant continuation of alimony. This is tough to prove, and it depends on the circumstances. In determining whether to terminate or continue the alimony award, courts looks at a number of different factors. For example, courts may consider the new spouse’s income and financial resources. Courts will also consider the impact that terminating alimony would have on the recipient spouse’s ability to meet his or her needs. Either party can request the court to modify or terminate alimony. To do so, one of you would need to file a complaint with the court asking for the change. After the other party is served with the complaint, he or she will have the opportunity

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Determining income for purposes of alimony

Under Massachusetts law, courts consider a number of factors in determining whether to award alimony and if so, the amount and duration of the alimony award. One factor is the income of the parties. But what happens if one of the parties is unemployed or underemployed? How do courts decide what—if any—income to assign to that party? A judge has discretion to determine what income to assign the parties for purposes of calculating alimony, which is also known as spousal support. It is important to know that a judge is not limited to using only a party’s actual earnings. The judge may also consider a party’s potential earning capacity and may impute a higher income to that party as a result. In order to impute income to a party, the judge must find that the party is earning less than he or she otherwise could earn with reasonable effort. The judge considers factors such as the training, education, employment history, and health of the party. The judge also considers whether that party is the primary caretaker of children and if so, the age, number, and needs of those children. At the start of every divorce proceeding, both parties must file a financial statement with the court. This statement requires the parties to disclose all income and assets. This information is key to helping a judge determine income for purposes of alimony. In addition to the financial statements, a judge may also consider testimony of the parties at hearings and any

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