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Alimony: 20 Factors the Court Considers when assigning Alimony

Alimony is a payment from one spouse or former spouse to another spouse or former spouse, and that payment is taxable to the person who receives the alimony and tax deductible to the person who pays the alimony.  That payment is specifically for the support of a spouse or ex-spouse.  Because alimony is tax deductible and child support is not tax deductible, it is different from child support in that the payments of alimony cannot end upon the happening of the emancipation of the child, otherwise the Internal Revenue Service can disallow the past deductions of the alimony and past taxes plus interest and penalties can be imposed, going back to the beginning of the payment of the alimony.

The Court considers 20 factors in making an assignment of alimony.  Those factors are listed in the Divorce statute of Massachusetts which is Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 208, Section 34.  Those 20 factors are:

Length of the Marriage

Conduct of the parties during the marriage

Age of the parties

Health of the parties

Station of the Parties

Occupation of the Parties

Amount of income of the Parties

Sources of Income of the Parties

Vocational Skills of the Parties

Employability of the Parties

Estate of the Parties

Liabilities of the Parties

Needs of the Parties

Opportunity of the Parties to Acquire Future Capital Assets

Opportunity of the Parties to Acquire Future Income

Contribution of the Parties in the Acquisition of their Estate

Contribution of the Parties in the Preservation of their Estate

Contribution of the Parties in Appreciation in Value of their Estate

Contribution of the Parties as a Homemaker to the Family Unit

Needs of the Children

The relative importance or weight of each of these 20 factors is determined by the Massachusetts Appeals Court and the Massachusetts Supreme Court.  Generally, however, the most important factor is length of the marriage, because the length of the marriage determines how all of the other factors are treated.

This makes sense, because in a short term marriage of one year, for example, one would expect that there would be less of a payment of alimony than in a long term marriage of thirty years.  Or if one spouse were ill as determined under health of the parties, then it is logical that that spouse would be more apt to need alimony than if that spouse were well and able to work to support him or her self.

It is up to the parties to provide a picture of the marriage with details about all of these 20 categories in the Statute if a dispute revolves around the issue of alimony, so that the Court can make a decision regarding whether alimony should be paid, the amount of alimony and the duration of the payment.  In this regard, the Courts look at the ability of the person paying the alimony and the need of the person who is seeking alimony.  Lastly, alimony is gender neutral, so that a woman can seek alimony or a man can seek alimony from a woman.

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