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How do judges decide alimony?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed September 2021

Alimony is money a judge orders one spouse to pay the other when a couple divorces. The money is to help support the spouse who gets it.

Judges do not order alimony in every divorce.

Now there are 4 different kinds of alimony. Each kind has rules about:

  • the length of marriage it applies to,
  • how long it can last,
  • what can end it, and
  • if it can be changed.

The alimony laws changed on March 1, 2012. Alimony orders and written agreements about alimony made before March 1, 2012 remain in effect.


If the judge did not order alimony when you divorced, you may be able to go back to court later to ask for alimony. But if you have a divorce agreement, it might say you cannot go to court later. Talk to a lawyer.

To read more about alimony see the Alimony secton in Children and Families.

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