Whenever the possibility of a marital split is on the horizon, several questions start to pop up in every direction. Some such questions include “Will I need to pay alimony?” or “Will I need to pay child support?” begin to spin around one’s head as if they were a confused character from an old movie.
To some, Alimony and Child Support serve to be a hindrance to their very economic existence. In contrast, for others, they serve as a lifeblood to continue an economically stable life after a breakup or divorce. Contact The Law Office of Biedak and Finlay Law.
What is Alimony?
Alimony, also known as Spousal Support or maintenance, is an obligation for one spouse to provide financially for the other spouse during or after a divorce or separation.
The Types of Alimony:
There are multiple different types of Alimony:
- General Term Alimony – Awarded to a spouse financially dependent on the other spouse.
- Rehabilitative Alimony – Awarded to a spouse for a specific duration to assist them in becoming financially self-sufficient. This is often granted to support education or job training to put that parent in a more economically stable position.
- Reimbursement Alimony – Awarded when one spouse supports the other spouse through education or career advancement during the marriage. I.e., if one spouse paid for rent, food, and other living expenses while the other spouse went to Medical school or attended training to become a Commercial Airline Pilot.
- Transitional Alimony – Awarded for a limited period to assist the other spouse in transitioning into a new lifestyle or living arrangement. An example of Transitional Alimony would be if one spouse had moved a large distance to live in a new area with a former spouse. That individual will have a higher cost of transitioning to their new life in that region than they would in their hometown.
How long does Alimony last?
The duration of alimony payments in Massachusetts are dependent on a variety of factors, such as the length of the marriage. The shorter the marriage, the lesser the owed amount in Alimony. The longer the marriage, the longer term the possible alimony payments may be.
- A good example is that marriages of fewer than five years may result in alimony payments for up to 50% of the duration of the marriage or none at all, while longer marriages may lead to longer-term or even indefinite alimony. But in a 20-year marriage, you can expect maintenance for a potential 20 years or more. This is all designated clearly in the Alimony Reform Act of 2011.
Also, where a judge concludes that temporary alimony has been paid for an unusually long period of time or that the recipient spouse has unfairly delayed the final resolution of the case in an attempt to prolong the payment of alimony, a judge in her discretion may determine that the appropriate duration of maintenance is below the presumptive maximum. M.G.L.A. c. 208, § 53(a); also, Holmes v. Holmes, 6 N.E.3d 1062, 1063 (Mass. 2014).
Can Alimony be modified?
The Court could modify an order for Alimony. Modification is allowed under specific instances, such as a significant change in a spouse’s income. However, the modification will depend on the type of Alimony. Payments made rehabilitative or reimbursement alimony are more likely to be subject to a modification in the future than General Term alimony.
What if the former spouses still cohabitate?
Alimony payments can be modified or terminated if the recipient spouse cohabits with another person in a relationship similar to marriage. The court will consider cohabitation’s economic and non-economic aspects when making these determinations and whether they have been cohabitating for longer than 90 days.
What if a spouse retires?
Alimony payments may be modified or terminated upon the paying spouse reaches full retirement age or retirement if the court finds it appropriate.
What are the tax implications of alimony?
Under Federal Tax law changes that took effect in 2019, alimony payments are no longer tax-deductible for the payer or taxable income for the recipient.
What can I do to address Alimony?
Spouses can also address alimony in prenuptial agreements, which can specify the terms and conditions of spousal support in case of divorce or separation.
It’s important to note that divorce and family law matters can be complex, and the laws may change over time. Suppose you are dealing with issues related to alimony or child support in Massachusetts. In that case, it is advisable to consult with the experienced family law attorney, Robert C. Finlay IV, who can provide guidance specific to your situation and the most up-to-date information on Massachusetts state laws.
But the two most important details to remember are that Alimony is based on the persons’ needs and the other person’s ability to pay. These items both have to be demonstrated. This of course comes with a huge grey area on how the parties ended up where they did and what was their career back story, or whether there may have been long-term illness or disability, whether one person was a homemaker the entire time, and a hundred other factors. Judges will weigh in on each significant factor.
Child Support and Useful Information
Child Support in Massachusetts is well-established through the use of Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines help determine the amount of child support that should be paid by one party to another. The determination of child support is made using several factors, such as the income of each party, the number of children involved, and the cost of health insurance and childcare. It does not matter the gender of the parent when determining who pays child support. In most situations, the parent who pays child support is often the non-custodial parent (Who does not live with the child). Of course, it would not make much sense for a custodial parent (the parent that does live with the child), who pays to house, feed, and care for the child to pay child support to a parent who does not take care of the child.
Child Support Guidelines Deviation:
- There are certain situations under which a Court would deviate from the MA Child Support Guidelines. Such instances occur when the Court determines that following the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate to the parties against which the child support would be derived. A common instance under which the Court would opt not to follow the MA Child Support Guidelines would be when there are special circumstances, such as when a child has special needs or even when one parent is in the military. This too is situational, but the threshold to deviate from support can easily be agreed to and is done usually in exchange of something else needed or useful. However, if the parties will fight about it in court, your lawyer better have several solid reasons why you should pay less or the other party shall pay more. The arguments I often hear are, “Just look at the car he is driving” or “Look at the money in the retirement account” or “I can’t go on vacation this year” or “My son has extracurriculars, private school tuition, Wholefood diet, and so on and she doesn’t want to pay it”. It is all situational. None of the abovementioned things would push a judge over the edge of deviation. The person asking for more would have to show hardship.
Who enforces Child Support?
Child Support is enforced through the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR). The DOR assists in several matters, such as establishing paternity, locating parents, and enforcing child support through a variety of means, such as wage deductions, tax payment intercepts, and in worse-case-scenarios, suspension of driver’s licenses for those who refuse to make payment or even criminal charges! I find people should try and do it themselves without DOR intervention. Sometimes, their involvement confuses easily tracked items, and then if things change, the DOR presence makes it hard to implement change.
Modification of Child Support:
It is possible for the Court to modify an order of child support. Modifications are authorized if there is a substantial change in circumstances, such as a significant change in income or expenses. To modify, a party must request for improvement through the court. It is a lawsuit petition like any other; these actions take time and are expensive. I try to tell people to sit down and run the numbers with a lawyer before they do this because often, I have seen people go into court and have to pay more, or people who want more have to be paid less. There are a lot of confines and math surrounding a suit like this.
Who pays for Health Insurance?
When negotiating the payment of health insurance, the burden of providing health insurance often falls onto the parent who has affordable insurance with their job. This doesn’t have to be the case. The parent who pays the insurance gets a small deduction to help them with child support.
Another such consideration in determining the amount of child support is the cost of childcare expenses. Whether if it is the tuition paid by parents to send a child to a specific preschool, daycare costs, or the opportunity costs of staying home as opposed to going to work; It is no secret that childcare costs are astronomical.
Child support payments are neither tax-deductible for the paying parent nor considered taxable income for the receiving parent.
It’s important to note that divorce and family law matters can be complex, and the laws may change over time. Suppose you are dealing with alimony or child support issues in Massachusetts. In that case, it is advisable to consult with the experienced family law attorney, Robert C. Finlay IV, can provide guidance specific to your situation and the most up-to-date information on Massachusetts state laws.
The Common Misconception of Paying Both Alimony and Child Support:
There is a common misconception that an individual going through a Divorce or Separation would be stuck with paying both Alimony and Child Support in full amounts. This is not true. There are limitations upon what could be paid in Alimony whenever child support payments are already being made.
According to the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of 2011, alimony is typically unpaid in addition to child support. However, if the non-custodial parent makes sufficient income, then the Court may grant alimony and child support to be paid to the custodial parent.
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts established a three-step framework that the Probate and Family Court judges must follow in situations where both alimony and child support are available: (1) The court must calculate alimony first, taking in consideration the factors laid out in the Alimony Reform Act, then calculate child support based on the parties’ income; (2) The Court would calculate child support, then calculate alimony based on the parties’ remaining income, if there happens to be any; then (3) the Court will compare the two awards and their tax consequences, then they will determine which of the two awards are more equitable.
So, while it is true a person would pay alimony AND child support, it would mean one parent had an income of over $200,000 per year and the other parent had nearly nothing. Even then the parent who had nothing would get a full child support share and then an additional sum in alimony – not max on both.