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Can an alimony order be ended?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed September 2021

All alimony orders end if the spouse that gets the alimony dies.

You cannot get the end date changed for reimbursement or transitional alimony orders.

You need to show there has been a “material change of circumstances” or “compelling circumstances” to change rehabilitative alimony. 

The judge can only change general term alimony if there is no written agreement that says the alimony cannot be changed.  

General term alimony

General term alimony ends if:

  • the spouse receiving the alimony remarries;
  • either spouse dies; or
  • the spouse paying alimony reaches “full retirement age.”

General term alimony can be suspended, reduced, or ended if the spouse getting alimony lives with another person.

See What can make a general term alimony order end?

Rehabilitative alimony

Rehabilitative alimony ends if:

  • the spouse receiving the alimony remarries;
  • either spouse dies; or
  • a specific event happens.

See What can make a rehabilitative alimony order end?

Can my alimony order be changed if it was made before March 1, 2012?

It depends.

If you and your former spouse agreed in writing that the alimony cannot be changed, usually a judge  cannot change it now.

An agreement that the alimony cannot be changed often uses the words “survives as an independent contract.” That means a judge can only change the contract in extreme circumstances.  An example of an extreme circumstance is where the recipient will end up on welfare if the judge does not increase the alimony

If your alimony agreement does not “survive,” you can file a complaint to change the alimony.

Chapter 124 of the Acts of 2011 says when and how much a judge can change alimony that is in

  • an agreement that does not “survive” or
  • a judgment from before March 1, 2012.

If you are not sure if your alimony from before March 1, 2012 can be changed, talk to a lawyer.

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