I Want to Get Divorced in Massachusetts, but I’m Afraid of How Much I’ll Have to Pay in Alimony

Divorce can be a scary process for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest reasons people fear divorce is the prospect of having to pay alimony to their spouse. What’s included in alimony can be confusing, and how alimony is calculated is often not well understood. This uncertainty can cause apprehension in those unable to or not wanting to take on what they envision will be a significant financial burden.

However, the long-term cost of not getting divorced could very well add up to more than any order of support. Further, not everyone who gets divorced has to pay support at all. Seeking a divorce should, therefore, not turn on how much alimony you believe you will have to pay.

Still unsure? Below are a few issues you should consider and be aware of if the potential cost of alimony is what’s holding you back from getting divorced.

Ask yourself what the price of happiness is

You don’t need me to say this, but I’ll say it anyway: Life is short. In other words, you’re robbing yourself of happiness daily if you’re not in a happy marriage. And it isn’t easy to put a price on that.

Next, consider the stress, sadness, or anger that might build up inside you if you stay in an unhappy or tumultuous marriage. According to one study from researchers at the University of Chicago, detailed in this article from WebMD, people in unhealthy marriages are at a higher risk of heart disease or depression due to increased stress. Indeed, deciding to get divorced can be the most helpful and healthy choice for your health and well-being in the future.

You may not have to pay your spouse alimony.

If your biggest concern about getting divorced is the alimony costs, consult with a Massachusetts family law attorney about how much you could be required to pay, given your circumstances. In Massachusetts, alimony, defined as financial support paid by one divorced spouse to the other, is need-based.

Alimony is typically paid out over time but can also be paid out all at once. Generally, the likelihood that you will be required to pay alimony is higher the longer your marriage and the greater the financial disparity between you and your spouse.

In Massachusetts, several factors determine whether there should be an alimony award and how much it should be. Age, health, station, occupation, income, skills, employability, estate, liabilities, needs, and financial prospects are just a few of the factors a judge will consider. The court will also consider if there are any other alimony or child support orders, such as from a previous divorce.

The court will also consider child support on your current case. Therefore, if you have dependent children and you are paying support, that will be factored into an alimony analysis.

In divorce law, one of the main goals is to keep the parties as close to their marital lifestyle as possible. Therefore, there’s a strong likelihood that alimony will be awarded if one spouse hasn’t worked for a significant amount of time, making them less employable and more dependent on the other spouse. This is especially true if the “non-working spouse” made non-economic contributions to the marriage, such as taking care of the children and the house.

However, the court may employ a technique known as “income attribution” to lessen the payor’s financial burden if the recipient spouse is unemployed or underemployed. A judge can use income attribution to assign earnings to the recipient spouse if they believe the spouse should be earning more. The burden is on the payor to demonstrate that the other spouse can make more. Experts who conduct research and can provide trustworthy information about the recipient’s employability in a particular job market can help.

Alimony is an indirect investment in your children.

If you have children, consider your divorce and the accordant support as an investment in their well-being. Frequent arguments between you and your spouse can create a toxic home environment for your children. Support payments can enable your child to live in two separate homes in peace.

Research shows that a lot of chaos in a household has a negative impact not just on the family unit but also on various outcomes for the children, from adverse health impacts to lower academic performance. So by allowing your children to live in potentially less stressful homes, you’re not only alleviating yourself of an unhappy marriage but also helping to position your children for a happier and healthier future.

Determining your alimony can be financially freeing to you as you move forward.

Divorcing sooner rather than later can present you with a financial benefit. Depending on your circumstances, there may be economic gains in your future, many of which stem from the division of assets.

Take, for example, the marital home. A judge may order the value of your family home gets split between you and your spouse in your divorce. The sooner you divorce, the sooner you will have access to the proceeds from your home to do with what you please — realize your profits, buy a new home on your own, invest, take a vacation, anything you choose. That’s because once the funds become yours, you won’t have to answer to anyone, especially your ex spouse, about what you’re using those funds for.

Also, what you accumulate after divorce is yours. You won’t have to share with your spouse any gains you receive afterward. That means if you buy a new house after the divorce, for instance, and it appreciates, that appreciation is yours and yours alone. Bottom line: Dividing earlier gives you more time to get the most value out of your assets. So long as you comply with any existing support orders, what’s yours will remain yours.

Be open and honest about your finances when calculating support awards.

If you think you should lie to minimize how much alimony you will have to pay, think again. Such behavior can only hurt you in the long run. So, a word to the wise: Don’t engage in any funny business with your income and finances.

Just being honest about your financial picture can be a money saver. Though you want to be sure that you keep your economic well-being a priority when you divorce, you should always be transparent about your income and finances. If you don’t, there can be costly repercussions, beginning with how much time your lawyer will have to spend to defend a claim that you’ve behaved otherwise.

For example, suppose the court finds out you’re purposely unemployed or underemployed. In that case, as mentioned earlier, a judge can “attribute” income to you and force you to pay support based on your earnings potential instead of your actual income. That can have a long-term adverse impact on how much you have to pay.

As long as you’re upfront about your income and finances, you won’t run into these issues in the event you decide to get divorced. Being honest allows you to do what’s best for you without worrying about untruths coming back to haunt you later. With a clear picture of your income and finances, your divorce attorney can communicate to you a more realistic idea of what to expect.

Fear of getting divorced can cost you more than money.

Fear can be debilitating. If you live in fear of getting divorced, you potentially put yourself into an unhappy and ultimately unhealthy situation. Chronic anxiety, fear, or stress about divorce or your marriage can manifest physically or mentally and cost you your health, depending on how much of a toll it takes on you.

What’s important to note is that you don’t have to make a final decision about whether you want to get divorced right away. Instead, you can go on a fact-finding mission first, beginning with scheduling a confidential assessment with a Massachusetts divorce lawyer to help you crunch the numbers.

You can also talk your issues through with friends or family members, especially those who have gone through a divorce before. But remember, although someone else can opine about what to expect based on their experience, every divorce is different, yours included. Your experience won’t necessarily be theirs.

Being informed, however, can remove much of the fear and, more importantly, help you figure out what you want to do next. At the very least, it can help you come to terms with the reality of divorce and understand what it could look like for you. So take the time you need to gather information and collect your thoughts. This step alone will keep you forward-moving.

Final Thoughts …

At Farias Family Law, our team of Massachusetts family law attorneys recognizes how divorce can usher in change and that with this change can also come confusion and trepidation. It’s understandable.

However, you don’t need to let your confusion or fear about support or long-term finances be the reason why you don’t divorce. Indeed, the possibility of paying alimony might seem frightening or overwhelming initially. But looking into what an alimony order could look like for you can help alleviate many of your worries and illustrate how divorce might be the best solution for you and your family.

Although it’s nearly impossible to determine definitively whether a judge will order alimony in your divorce and for how long, after reading, you should now have a better understanding of what factors a judge might consider. Speaking with a family law attorney for a comprehensive evaluation of your specific circumstances before filing for divorce can provide you with that much more insight. Call us today.

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