Can Spousal Support Be Determined in an Uncontested Divorce in Massachusetts?

Going through a divorce is a complex and emotional experience that raises many questions that can keep you awake at night. If you’re considering an uncontested divorce in Massachusetts, you might wonder if spousal support (also called alimony) can be determined as part of the process. 

The good news is that the answer is yes–spousal support can be addressed in an uncontested divorce. The bad news is that the process is not always easy, and it can cause an uncontested divorce to turn into a contested divorce if you do not take the right approach. 

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce in Massachusetts

For a divorce to be uncontested, you and your spouse must agree on all the terms of your divorce settlement, including property division, child custody, and spousal support. Reaching an impasse on one or more issues causes a divorce to be considered contested, requiring the court to make decisions. This can cause the divorce to take longer and become more costly. 

Determining Spousal Support in Uncontested Divorce

In an uncontested divorce, spousal support needs to be addressed in your agreement. You and your spouse can negotiate the terms of spousal support on your own, through your attorneys, or with the help of a mediator. It is a good idea to consult an attorney first so that you understand the rights and obligations that would apply if the court were to make the decision. Factors that affect spousal support include the length of your marriage, each spouse’s income and earning potential, and the recipient spouse’s need for financial assistance.

Once you reach an agreement on spousal support, it should be included in your written divorce settlement. This document will be reviewed and approved by a judge, making it legally binding.

Benefits of Addressing Spousal Support in an Uncontested Divorce

There are several advantages to resolving spousal support through negotiation in an uncontested divorce:

  • Cost-Effective: Negotiation avoids the expense of a lengthy court battle.
  • Control: You and your spouse have more control over the outcome, tailoring the support agreement to your specific circumstances.
  • Reduced Conflict: Maintaining a civil approach can make the divorce process less stressful.

Factors Considered in Determining Spousal Support

Massachusetts law provides guidelines for judges to consider when awarding spousal support.  Understanding these factors can help you and your spouse reach a fair agreement during negotiations. Here are some key considerations:

  • Length of the Marriage: Generally, longer marriages are more likely to result in spousal support, especially if one spouse stayed home to raise children or sacrificed career opportunities.
  • Income Disparity: The difference in income between spouses is a major factor. If one spouse earns significantly more, they may be required to provide financial support to the other to maintain a similar standard of living after the divorce.
  • Financial Needs and Assets: The court considers each spouse’s financial needs and assets, including debts, retirement accounts, and property ownership.
  • Employability and Earning Capacity: The court will consider each spouse’s ability to earn a living, including education, skills, and health. If one spouse has limited earning potential due to age, health issues, or childcare responsibilities, they may be entitled to spousal support.
  • Contributions to the Marriage: The court may consider non-financial contributions, such as homemaking or childcare, that one spouse made that allowed the other to focus on their career.

Additional Considerations to Keep in Mind

There are additional considerations to keep in mind when developing a plan for spousal support in an uncontested divorce. First, both spouses have a legal obligation to disclose all financial information honestly. This ensures a fair agreement and protects you from future challenges.

Next, it’s wise to have an attorney review your settlement agreement, including the spousal support terms. An experienced legal advisor can ensure the agreement protects your rights and complies with Massachusetts law.

Finally, you need to be aware that spousal support agreements can be modified under certain circumstances, such as a significant change in income for either spouse. It’s important to clearly outline these modification provisions in your agreement to avoid future disputes.

We’re Here to Help

Divorce can be challenging, but you don’t have to go through it alone. The Reade Law Firm, PC, can guide you through the uncontested divorce process, including spousal support considerations. We’ll help you understand your rights, negotiate, and ensure a fair and comprehensive agreement. Contact us online or call us at (978) 767-8383. We’re happy to help.