Methuen Spousal Support Attorney
Are you going through a divorce and want to ensure that you are paid the right amount of alimony or are not ordered to pay more than is necessary? If you are just beginning the divorce process, retain a Methuen divorce lawyer who is current on the recent changes to spousal support law and has knowledge of how those changes apply to your specific situation.
New laws in Massachusetts have put limits on the duration of alimony and allow for alimony to end when a spouse lives with a new partner. If you are already divorced, you may be entitled to modify or terminate your alimony order. At DiBella Law Offices, P.C., our Methuen family law attorney keeps up to date on changes in the law to effectively protect your rights.
In Essex County towns such as Lawrence, Merrimac, or Methuen, the Essex Probate and Family Court is the venue. In the interim period of a divorce case, the court may implement a temporary order of alimony, and include responsibility for healthcare coverage. In the final process of divorce, the court may order a judgment for alimony to be paid. Assets and property may be added, or allocated in lieu of alimony support such as retirement plans, pensions, annuities, and life insurance. In such distributions, the court weighs considerations including length of marriage, age, health status, occupation, skills, and income. In addition, the court places consideration as to the involvement of the parties in acquiring, preserving and adding value to the estate, which includes work by a homemaker. In determining the appropriate amounts or duration of any alimony, the courts will also consider the ability for either party to maintain a lifestyle similar to the level which existed during the marriage. Generally, an order for alimony should not surpass the needs of the receiver, or 30-35% of the income variance between their gross incomes.
When determining alimony the court will not include these in the calculation:
- Income from an asset’s capital gains, dividends, or interest that are divided equitably among the parties
- Gross income that was previously analyzed for ordering child support
Possible consideration for deviations in alimony amounts or duration:
- Old age and chronic health concerns
- Tax implications
- Health and/or life insurance related issues
- Income not accounted for in the divorce including capital gains, dividends, and interest
- A lengthy premarital co-habitation or separation period while married
- If a party is struggling from the physical or mental abuse of another
- A party has limited property or opportunities for employment.
In marriages with vast wealth, parties may have diverse investments, business interests, expenses, liabilities and assets that may not be clearly evident, or that a party chooses not to acknowledge for purposes of division. In such divorces, there is a discovery process, geared to exchange and gather financial information among parties and legal counsel. Discovery provides access to the possessions of both parties to determined equitable division.
Economic concerns can contribute to stress and contentiousness among couples; perhaps there was a job loss, or accumulation of unmanageable debt. If considering actions of bankruptcy amid a divorce, seek legal assistance to properly grasp the implications. Whether to file the divorce prior to the bankruptcy, or vice versa, may be subject to concerns such as residence, amount and types of debt, and type(s) of bankruptcy chapter you may qualify for. Filing fees for a joint bankruptcy are the same as filing alone, thus a joint filing would save on fees. If you have the same attorney conduct the joint filing, there is a savings on attorney fees compared to doing so separately. The division of debts and assets may be a simpler if preceded by the bankruptcy. A court order which separates the responsibility for debts between the parties, does not release you from that obligation according to creditors.
If a party is unable to keep their support obligations current, the court may move to notify the employer of the party (trustee) to establish an automatic transfer of the person’s funds each pay period. Any past due amounts and future payments will be conducted in this manner moving forward. If a party has not adhered to a support order, the receiver may file a complaint with the court leading to their being found in contempt of court. In these situations, the court may attempt to collect by garnishing wages, property liens, bank account levies, driver’s license suspension and others.
Orders of spousal support may be altered through post-divorce modification orders. They may be the result of changes in employment, income, health insurance access, and more. The general terms of alimony adhere to a tiered structure where the length of the marriage determines the alimony duration, or period of payment. The basics are as follows:
- Under 5 years: Up to 50% of number of months married
- Under 10 years: Up to 60% of number of months married
- Under 15 years: Up to 70% of number of months married
- Under 20 years: Up to 80% of number of months married
- Over 20 years: At discretion of court
Alimony also will generally be terminated upon death of a spouse, remarriage of the receiver, or when a receiver reaches full retirement age. The court has some discretionary power to lengthen the time for suitable reasons.
We have offices in Boston, Methuen, and Burlington, and we handle cases in Massachusetts. If you are seeking an efficient and hardworking attorney to represent you in a spousal support determination or modification, you have come to the right place.
With the recent changes to alimony laws, lifetime alimony is no longer awarded. Alimony can also be suspended when the recipient spouse cohabits with a new partner for three months or longer. The law tries to incorporate the best interest of both parties to ensure everyone is treated fairly.
Contact us today at (978) 327-5140 if you would like to make an appointment to speak with a lawyer from our team.