How is income divided at divorce?

Additional info: For MA, I’ve heard 30% of the difference in income is typically paid from the higher income spouse to other spouse as alimony until retirement. Does this include only primary job, or also occasional consulting, book royalties, etc? What if income spikes or falls in some years? What if someone quits or gets fired or gets sick? Do we have to exchange tax forms forever to do this? And how is “retirement” defined?

The questions you ask really get to the fine details of how alimony works. Remember, the alimony law is a standard to follow, however Judges have broad discretion in many areas of it. Because of this discretion spouses are able to negotiate and come up with alimony plans that will work for them. Alimony is modifiable based on income, therefor the issue of income increasing or decreasing in various years does need to be taken into consideration when clarifying this in the divorce agreement. Often divorced spouses do exchange their tax returns each year while alimony or child support is being paid if they want to take into account income variations. Retirement for purposes of the alimony law is not actual retirement. The law states that alimony will terminate when the payor reached their full social security retirement age; they can continue working and have alimony end. However, again in this area Judge’s have broad discretion. A judges decision will depend on the financial circumstances of the parties and how close to this age the parties are when the divorce is taking place.
You may want to consider divorce mediation as a way to amicable and fairly come to these agreements with the help of a neutral trained professional mediator. Mediators are skilled in conflict resolution and the legal, financial and family issues inherent in divorce. Go to for a list of certified mediators.

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