When a couple gets divorced, one spouse invariably has to pay alimony to the other. In a vast majority of cases, one spouse tends to make more money than the other. So, when they get divorced, the spouse who is financially better off is required to pay the spouse with lower income or no income at all.
Alimony is generally paid as a series of fixed monthly payments over a period of time. It can also be paid as a lump sum if the person who pays the alimony can afford to do so.
Alimony Laws in Massachusetts
Under Massachusetts law, the amount of alimony to be paid by a spouse is generally determined based on the following factors.
- The current income or the potential income of each spouse
- The economic as well as non-economic contributions made by each spouse to their marriage
- The standard of living that the couple enjoyed over the span of their marriage and the ability of each spouse to maintain the same standard of living after the divorce
- Lost career opportunities due to the contributions and sacrifices made by each spouse to their marriage
The law also states that alimony is to be paid for a specific period of time, which is usually dependent on the length of the marriage. For example, if a couple was married for 10 years, the duration of alimony payments cannot be greater than 60% of the length of the marriage, which is 6 years.
If, on the other hand, a couple was married for more than 20 years, the court might rule that the alimony needs to be paid for an indefinite length of time. Such rulings, however, are very rare.
Under Massachusetts law, alimony payments can be reduced, suspended temporarily, or terminated altogether if the dependent spouse (who receives the alimony) gets remarried or cohabitates with another person for more than three months.
How the Issue of Alimony Can Widen the Rift Between Spouses
Alimony can be an extremely difficult issue for a couple to work through after a divorce. It can cause a great deal of emotional distress to both spouses and exacerbate the differences between them.
One of the reasons why couples are rarely able to see eye-to-eye with each other when it comes to the issue of alimony is that they tend to blame each other for the divorce.
The well-earning spouse tends to think that the system is biased against them and that they are being forced to pay far more than what the other spouse actually deserves. The recipient, on the other hand, tends to feel that their contributions and sacrifices to the marriage are not appreciated or even acknowledged by the other spouse. This is why divorced couples often struggle to find common ground on the issue of alimony.
One of the best ways to minimize conflicts in alimony discussions is to hire a mediator who can engage with the spouses, create an environment where they can talk to each other in a civil manner, and ensure that they come up with a solution that can be beneficial for both of them in the long term.
Resolving Alimony Issues Through Mediation
Divorce mediation is a process in which the spouses are encouraged to think about their post-divorce life, rather than blaming each other for what happened in the past. The mediator can help the spouse who pays the alimony understand why the other spouse needs financial assistance.
They can also help the dependent spouse appreciate the assistance provided by the other spouse. Once the spouses develop a sense of respect for each other, they can talk to each other and come up with a mutually beneficial solution.
If a spouse happens to own a substantial amount of assets, the mediator might suggest the idea of an alimony buyout. The spouse can offer a larger share of their assets to the other spouse and in return ask them to waive the right to receive alimony payments.
If a couple has unemancipated children, the higher-earning spouse will have to pay child support in addition to alimony. In such a scenario, the mediator can help the spouses come up with a reasonably balanced solution, depending on how much the dependent spouse is entitled to receive as alimony under the Massachusetts’ alimony laws and Massachusetts’ child support laws.
Mediation is Forward-Looking
For couples who are uncertain about their financial future after a divorce, mediation is the best option as it can help them keep their negative emotions aside, focus on the future, and come up with creative solutions that take into account each other’s concerns and needs.
Speak With a Massachusetts Alimony Mediator
Mediation is an optimal strategy for alimony disputes. The experienced team at Shapiro Mediation Services is composed of experienced and dedicated alimony mediators in Massachusetts, who have the tact and tenacity needed to mediate any and all alimony disputes in Massachusetts.