Remarriage and Alimony in Massachusetts

A look at the effects of remarriage on alimony in Massachusetts.

Alimony awards in Massachusetts date back to the American Revolution. However, spousal support’s storied history in the state doesn’t mean it will go on forever, especially if a remarriage is in the works.

Alimony, or spousal support, is a court requirement that one spouse (“the obligor” or “paying spouse”) provide the other (“the recipient” or “supported spouse”) with monetary support to avoid financial hardship. Spousal support is gender neutral and not required in every divorce case.

When alimony is ordered, it may take on different forms and end upon events like remarriage and death. This article provides an overview of the effects of remarriage on alimony payments in Massachusetts. If after reading this article you have questions, please contact a local family law attorney for advice.

Overview of Alimony in Massachusetts

Alimony is awarded in those cases where a supported spouse needs financial support that a paying spouse is able to provide. Couples can reach their agreements regarding spousal support and avoid some of the headache of arguing their case in court. Nevertheless, in those cases where spouses can’t agree, a judge will evaluate the following to determine if alimony is necessary and if so, how much:

  • the length of the marriage
  • each spouse’s age and health
  • each spouse’s respective income
  • each spouse’s employability through reasonable diligence and training
  • the lifestyle of the spouses enjoyed during the marriage
  • each spouse’s ability to maintain the same standard of living enjoyed during marriage
  • each spouse’s lost economic opportunities as a result of the marriage, if any,
  • each spouse’s economic and non-economic contributions to the marriage, and
  • any other factor the court deems relevant.

The length of the marriage plays the biggest role in how much alimony is awarded and for how long. In Massachusetts, alimony can be general term, rehabilitative, reimbursement or transitional. To learn more about how alimony is calculated in Massachusetts, read Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Massachusetts.

Modifying or Terminating Alimony

Alimony is rarely permanent, and is often modified before its end date listed in the divorce order. While the death of either spouse and remarriage of a supported spouse mark the immediate end of alimony, other events require a modification with the court before alimony can be changed.

Either spouse may file a motion to adjust alimony at any time after a divorce order is issued, unless otherwise specified. A court will require evidence of a substantial change in circumstances such as unemployment, before altering spousal support. Moreover, an alimony modification will not affect payments already made, but only any alimony obligations going forward.

Impact of Cohabitation on Alimony in Massachusetts

An intimate relationship between an unmarried couple living in the same household for at least three months is called “cohabitation”. Alimony can be ended, reduced or suspended if a court determines that a supported spouse is cohabitating. An obligor spouse bears the burden of proving cohabitation if he or she wants a spousal support obligation to cease.

A judge will evaluate the financial circumstances of each spouse and decide if a change to alimony is necessary. Nevertheless, unlike remarriage or death which result in a permanent termination of alimony, a previous spousal support obligation can be reinstated once cohabitation ends.

Impact of Remarriage on Alimony

Supported Spouse’s Remarriage

Almost always, a supported spouse’s remarriage culminates in a termination of alimony. Nevertheless, extraordinary circumstances such as a supported spouse’s disability or extreme poverty may justify a continuation of support. A divorce order may specify that alimony ends as soon as wedding bells chime. Yet, if the order is silent, most alimony obligations will still terminate automatically.

However, two types of alimony won’t end simply because a supported spouse has remarried – reimbursement and transitional alimony. Once a supported spouse has remarried and alimony is cut off, it cannot be reinstated even if that marriage is later deemed invalid or ends in divorce.

Paying Spouse’s Remarriage

A wedding alone is not enough to justify a reduction in an paying spouse’s alimony obligation. However, Massachusetts courts will consider any additional household expenses associated with remarriage in determining whether a modification to alimony is necessary. Keep in mind, a new spouse’s income will also be examined to decide if a alteration in alimony is justified.

If you have additional questions about the impact of remarriage on alimony rights in Massachusetts, contact a local family law attorney for advice.

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