The court awards alimony when there is a clear financial discrepancy between the two parties in a divorce or when there is a need for financial help by one party to meet basic necessities. How long the court will require alimony payments depends on the length of the marriage.
Mass.gov explains the court will use a formula set by law to determine the length of alimony payments in each case.
Five years or less
If your marriage lasted five years or less, then the recommendation for how long alimony payments will last is 1/2 of the number of months of your marriage. For example, if your marriage lasted for 36 months, then the maximum amount of time the alimony award can extend would be 18 months. But keep in mind the court does have some decretion and could make the award for less than 18 months.
Five to 20 years
If your marriage lasted from five to 20 years, the court will use a percentage to figure the length of payments. If your marriage lasted five to 10 years, the court can award alimony for up to 60% of the number of months of your marriage. For example, if your marriage was nine years or 108 months, then the maximum payment term could be 64 to 65 months. If your marriage lasted 10 to 15 years, then the percentage is 70%. In the example, that would be up to 75 to 76 months. For marriages from 15 to 20 years, the percentage rises to 80% or about 86 months in the example.
20 years or longer
If you had a long marriage of over 20 years, the law puts no limit on the length of alimony payments. The court has a lot of leeways to determine how long it will last, which could include lifelong payments.