A Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently clarified in the “Homes” case that temporary alimony during the pendency of a divorce modification case would not be deducted from the total duration of the alimony obligation. This is important because there is some presumptive maximum duration; which means the time period based on the length of the marriage and meaning what the duration of the alimony payments would be.

Additionally, under the statute that the time period for the length of the marriage stops at the time that the spouse files for divorce; however, this provision has led many practitioners to interpret the law to mean that after the divorce is filed that clock for alimony starts. However, the SJC stated pretty clearly “temporary alimony is not general term alimony” and that the duration of the alimony would not necessarily start until the final judgment.

In addition, the SJC seemed to be saying that the duration limits set by the statute are presumptive maximum and a Judge may order a lower duration of alimony based on the General Laws, Ch. 208, Section 53 factors. The courts stated that when a spouse is unnecessarily prolonged in a divorce proceeding for the purpose of extending alimony obligations, a Judge may consider the duration of the temporary alimony in determining the duration of general term alimony and that could presumably mean that they would order a lower duration of alimony within the maximum listed in the statute. It helps clarify an unclear element.