Legal Articles

What Circumstances Justify Modifying Spousal Support?

Following a divorce, life moves forward. New careers begin, moves are made, new relationships may form. Looking at the changing circumstances in your and your ex-spouse’s life, you may wonder if the spousal support payments you are still making are still appropriately valued.

Defining Spousal Support

Spousal support is also known as alimony. Ordered by the court as part of a divorce, it is payments made by one former spouse to the other for a set period of time. As we will discuss below, there are circumstances that may justify a modification to the size of payments or the period of time they must be paid.

Massachusetts recognizes four types of alimony awards:

  • General Term Alimony: Regularly scheduled support payments to the ex-spouse who was financially dependent on the other partner. Time period over which payments will be made is determined by length of marriage.
  • Rehabilitative alimony: Regularly scheduled support payments to an ex-spouse is expected to support him/herself by a certain time.
  • Reimbursement alimony: Support, paid either regularly or as a one-time lump sum, when a marriage lasted less than five years, to reimburse the receiving ex-spouse for expenses he/she shoulder to allow the other partner to finish school or a job training course.
  • Transitional alimony: Support, paid either regularly or as a one-time lump sum, when a marriage lasted less than five years, to help the recipient ex-spouse transition to a new lifestyle or location following the divorce.

How Spousal Support Is Initially Determined

Either spouse, of whatever gender, may be required to pay alimony to the other if his or her income is higher. The amount of alimony paid is typically a third (more exactly, 30-35%) of the difference between the ex-spouse’s income.

Since 2012, Massachusetts has calculated the term of spousal support payments by a formula based on the number of months a couple was married. For every five additional years a marriage lasted, there is a ten percent increase in the duration of the support, from 50% up to 80%.

Conditions for Modifying Spousal Support

There are two broad conditions under which you may be able to modify your spousal support agreement:

  • If alimony was awarded before the 2012 legislation which changed how the duration of alimony was calculated.
  • A “material change” in your or your ex-spouse’s financial or relationship status. A “material change” in circumstances could include:
    • Changes in either party’s income
    • Changes in either party’s health or required expenses.
    • Changes in either party’s job, which may be expected to change income or health insurance expenses.
    • The recipient remarries.
    • The recipient is proven to be cohabitating with a new partner for at least three months.

Speak With Us

We can help you in petitioning for modification to your spousal support agreement. We are experienced in assessing all factors to calculate what you ought to owe—or if you should owe at all. Call our office today to discuss your unique situation.

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