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How does “reimbursement” alimony work?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed September 2021

“Reimbursement” alimony is to pay one spouse back for the time, money, or effort he or she put into the other spouse’s financial resources.


Nick and Hannah were married. They have 2 children. Nick took care of the children and household so Hannah could get job training. The judge might order Hannah to pay reimbursement alimony to Nick.

After Dan and May got married, May worked and supported both of them while Dan got his business started. May’s job only paid minimum wage. After 3½ years Dan filed for divorce. When they got divorced, Dan’s business was making a healthy profit. The judge might order Dan to pay reimbursement alimony to May.

How long does a couple have to be married for the judge to order reimbursement alimony?

The judge can order reimbursement alimony only when the length of the marriage is 5 years or less.

How long can reimbursement alimony last?

The judge can order reimbursement alimony for any length of time.

When does reimbursement alimony end?

Reimbursement alimony ends:

  • when the spouse who gets it dies, or
  • on the date the judge ordered it to end.

Can the judge change a reimbursement alimony order?


Neither spouse is even allowed to ask the court to change reimbursement alimony.

For more details about reimbursement alimony see General Laws, Chapter 208, section 51.

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