Family dynamics are complex. The members of a family unit must work hard to support their family system. In some family units, one spouse may work while the other stays home. Other families include two spouses who work. The diversity of the family unit applies to Massachusetts same-sex relationships as well. One example of an issue in Massachusetts family and divorce law cases is how rehabilitative alimony is awarded and the method by which it works.

For example…

Take the following example: Leila and Les started dating fifteen years ago. Les worked full-time as a bank teller, and Leila had recently earned a college degree in computer information systems and started a career in her field at a local company. Over the years during their relationship, Les graduated from college and graduate school. During this time, Leila supported Les’s professional endeavors. She cared for all household responsibilities, including tasks such as cleaning, cooking, and raising the couple’s children after they were born. Recently, Leila and Les married, but sadly they decided to divorce.

Because of the years of sustaining the family unit at home, Leila even as a girlfriend, did not build a career for herself. She now believes that she will not be able to have a career unless she pursues another college degree. Her computer degree is outdated, and she does not have as much experience as others in her field. Assuming that their divorce proceeds forward, how will the Massachusetts courts award alimony to the wife? Is the court able to award alimony for a short length of time?

What is rehabilitative alimony?

In Massachusetts, the Probate and Family Court may award rehabilitative alimony. As one of four forms of alimony, rehabilitative alimony is a form of financial support for a short period of time. Rehabilitative alimony allows the spouse who receives the alimony to reestablish himself or herself until self-sufficient and self-sustaining. Until the receiving spouse is self-supporting and more independent, the paying spouse may be required to make payments to the receiving spouse.

To refer to the example above, Leila may want to obtain a modern computer degree or take additional classes to update her skill set. A Massachusetts court may award her alimony for the length of time required to complete her degree plus several more months, so that she may obtain a career position. The judge may award an equitable amount that is subject to the judge’s discretion.

Termination or modification:

Suppose that the husband in the aforementioned example remarries. Would he be able to terminate the payments to his former wife? The answer is no. However, if the wife remarries, the wife would not be able to continue to receive alimony payments.

One question often asked by many couples, spouses, and clients is: how long may the rehabilitative alimony payments last? Alimony payments may be made for 5 years or less. The payments may also end if either party passes away.

A judge may later modify the amount if needed, in the event of a material change in circumstances. Let’s say that the Massachusetts court orders Les to make monthly payments to Leila in the amount of $2000. Two months later, Leila becomes a social media blogger superstar and earns one million dollars per year. May Les stop making payments to her without the court’s approval? The answer is no, but Les may petition the court to modify the alimony amount. Because Leila could be deemed to be self-sustaining based upon her income, the Massachusetts judge would likely alter the amount of the alimony payment.

Conversely, if the wife was unable to become self-sufficient during the period of her alimony, the wife may ask the court to extend her alimony by arguing that her circumstances are compelling enough to warrant an extension of alimony.

In addition to awarding rehabilitative alimony, Massachusetts courts may award three other forms of alimony: (1) General Term Alimony; (2) Reimbursement Alimony; and (3) Transitional Alimony.

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Are you looking for an experienced Newburyport or Andover divorce lawyer or family law attorney? It is important to hire a competent family law lawyer to handle your unique case. If you have any questions about alimony, divorce, or family law issues, please call our offices at 978-225-9030 during business hours or complete a contact form on our website. We will respond to your phone call or submission with prompt attention.