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When will a divorce lead to one spouse paying the other alimony?

Money and personal property are often sources of disagreements during a divorce. Spouses may both want to keep the same assets and may not agree about what is the most appropriate and fair way to divide them.

As if property division wasn’t acrimonious enough, many couples also find themselves disagreeing about whether one of them truly needs alimony. Sometimes also called spousal maintenance or spousal support, alimony involves payments from one former spouse to the other during divorce proceedings and even after the courts finalize their divorce.

Alimony can help someone maintain a better standard of living than they could provide on their own or give them the time necessary to re-enter the workforce and rebuild their earning potential. When do the Massachusetts family courts order alimony during or after a divorce?

When the spouses agreed to it in a contract

Couples can choose to sign a prenuptial agreement before they get married or to execute a postnuptial agreement during their marriage. The terms set in that contract could dictate what occurs in a divorce.

If your marital agreement includes an obligation of one spouse to pay alimony to the other, the courts will likely order alimony in line with what you previously agreed on with your spouse. Marital agreements can lead to alimony orders even without litigated proceedings.

When there is a big discrepancy in property or earning potential

Sometimes one spouse has far more personal property than the other and higher earning potential, possibly because the other spouse stayed home to care for the house or raise children.

When there is a big gap in economic circumstances between former spouses, the Massachusetts family courts can order the spouse with more resources to pay alimony. It is common for alimony to represent between 30% and 35% of the difference between the spouses’ household incomes after divorce.

Receiving alimony is not automatic. You will need to request it and either negotiate a settlement with your spouse or convince the courts of its necessity. Understanding how Massachusetts approaches alimony in a divorce can help you decide if you need to ask for it or defend against an unnecessary request for it.