Time as a factor in an alimony determination

Hollywood power couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner recently announced that they would divorce. While it may not be surprising to learn of another celebrity couple splitting up, the timing of this split is notable.

Garner waited until the day after the couple’s 10th wedding anniversary to submit her petition to end her marriage. In the state where the couple resides, a marriage of more than 10 years is considered one of long duration and therefore entitles the lower wage-earning spouse to more alimony than spouses who divorce out of shorter-term marriages. Timing of a divorce can affect alimony in Massachusetts as well, and the state’s legislature has established an alimony scale that increases an alimony award for every five years that a couple is wed.

For example, if a couple is married for fewer than five years, a support award cannot last longer than half of the months that the couple was married. That would mean that if a couple was married for exactly four years or 48 months, the alimony award could not last longer than two years or 24 months. Each step up of five years of marriage provides a support-receiving spouse with a greater percentage of months during which he or she may receive financial support from the paying spouse.

In Massachusetts, a court may disregard the month-based structure described above if the interests of justice dictate doing so. There is, therefore, some leeway in the discussed length of marriage legislation to provide a needy party with the support he or she needs when taking into consideration any limitations he or she may have regarding the ability to earn money. Just as demonstrated in the Garner-Affleck divorce, the length of a marriage can have an impact on how much support a court awards in a divorce. Other factors can play into an alimony determination, and individuals with more questions about alimony may choose to work with family law legal professionals.

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