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How does alimony work in Massachusetts?

Your marriage is failing, and you’re concerned about how you’re going to support yourself. It’s been a little bit since you were in the workforce, and you aren’t sure what it will take to get on your feet once you’re on your own.

Is alimony an option? It could be. Understanding more about how alimony works in Massachusetts may help alleviate some of your fears – and it will definitely help you strategize for the future.

Judges have 4 basic options when it comes to spousal support

Alimony isn’t automatic. As the dependent spouse, you need to ask the court to award you one or more of the following:

  1. Transitional alimony: If your marriage was short, you may not qualify for long-term alimony, but you could ask the court for transitional support. This is often designed to help you relocate and jump-start your new life.
  2. Rehabilitative alimony: This is support that’s designed to help you get the updated job training or education you need to become financially independent. If you gave up your career a few years ago to support your spouse’s ambitions, for example, you may need this support to update your own professional license or get new training.
  3. Reimbursement alimony: Did you wait tables and work a second job while you put your spouse through college? The court may order your spouse to pay your back for your contributions so that they aren’t the sole beneficiary of your labor.
  4. General alimony: This is a catch-all type of support that can be ordered when you demonstrate your financial need and the court deems it unfair to leave you without some form of financial support from your well-off spouse.


How long will alimony last? It depends entirely upon your situation. Transitional alimony and reimbursement alimony, for example, may involve a lump-sum payment (or several) with nothing more. Rehabilitative alimony is likely only to last long enough for you to get through school or training.

The length of any general alimony payments you are due will hinge on the length of your marriage. If you were married more than 20 years, it can be indefinite, but if you were married up to five years, you are only due support for ½ the length of the marriage.

Figuring out how you’re going to support yourself after divorce can feel almost overwhelming. Fortunately, legal guidance can help you better understand your options.