Alimony Durational Limits — How Long Will I have to Pay?

When spouses divorce, a very real concern on both sides is often: how long will alimony last?

Over the years a lot of time and money has been spent in divorce cases fighting over how long alimony should last.  The Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of 2011 has provided us with some guidelines for just how long alimony is payable, and it is based almost entirely on the length of the marriage.  Basically, the longer the marriage, the longer alimony may be payable.   Specifically, the time limits are as follows:

Marriage Length

Alimony Duration

Less than 5 years No more than 50% of the # of months of marriage
Between 5 and 10 years No more than 60% of the # of months of marriage
Between 10 and 15 years No more than 70% of the # of months of marriage
Between 15 to 20 years No more than 80% of the # of months of marriage
More than 20 years No specific durational limit – can be indefinite

For example, if the marriage lasted four years, or 48 months, alimony should be awarded for no more than 2 years or 24 months. However, it should be noted that these durational limits are in place in cases where there is the traditional general term alimony. If there is another type of alimony being paid other than general term alimony, there is most likely going to be a different time limit on alimony.

Different Types of Alimony

In addition to general term alimony, the alimony reform law provides for other categories of alimony as well such as rehabilitative, transitional, and reimbursement alimony.  For rehabilitative alimony, the limit is five years, for transitional alimony, the limit is three years, and for reimbursement alimony, there will be a set date or event that will terminate alimony.

It is important to know which type of alimony applies in your case, and to learn about their differences.  Occasionally, alimony can be extended beyond the durational limits, but this is highly dependent upon the particular circumstances of your case.  Alimony is also based not just upon the length of the marriage, but upon need and ability to pay.   The new alimony reform act is a complicated law with many nuances, and consultation with a lawyer can help a client better understand how the new law applies to his or her case regardless of whether the client is the payor or recipient of alimony.