What is Alimony?

What is Alimony?

When married couples get divorced, the court could grant “alimony” or spousal maintenance to one of the ex-spouses, based on either an agreement among the ex-spouses or by a court decision. This is different from the splitting of marital property and is decided case-by-case.

A lot of individuals have questions concerning alimony vs. child support in addition Alimony is different than child support since child support can only be used for minor children during the time they are with the custodial parent. Below discusses the basics of alimony and spousal maintenance.

Intent of Alimony

The intent of alimony is to restrict any unjust economic impact of a divorce by providing a continual income to a unwaged or lesser-waged ex. Part of the grounds is that an ex-spouse might have chosen to abandon a career for supporting the family and requires time to improve job skills for supporting themselves. Another intention may be to assist a spouse in continuing the lifestyle they were used to throughout marriage in spite of changes to income, income taxes and returns, bonuses, taxable income, etc.

How the Amount is Established

Different from child support, in which a lot of states is ordered in accordance to very particular monetary regulations, courts have wide discretion in establishing whether to grant spousal maintenance and, if that is the case, the amount and its timeline. The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, in which a lot of states’ spousal support laws are based on, suggests that courts consider the following elements while making decisions concerning them granting alimony:

  • The age, physical health, state of mind, and financial status of the previous spouses;
  • The amount of time the recipient is going to need for schooling or instruction to become self-supporting;
  • The couple’s quality of life throughout the marriage;
  • The duration of the marriage; and
  • The capability of the payer spouse to support the recipient and at the same time support themselves.

Alimony and Support Orders

Even though awards might be difficult to estimate, if the payer spouse is going to simply comply with a support order is even more difficult to determine. Alimony enforcing is not like child support enforcing, in which has the “weight” of wage garnishments, liens, and other enforcing devices. The recipient is able to, nevertheless, go back to court in contempt procedures in order for the enforcement of payment. Since alimony is able to be awarded using a court order, the devices available for the enforcement of any court order are accessible to a former spouse that is owed alimony.

How Long is Alimony Required to Be Paid?

Alimony is typically thought of as “rehabilitative,” that is to say, it’s ordered for just as long as is needed for the recipient spouse to get the required training and to become self-sufficient. When the divorce decree does not stipulate a spousal support ending date, the payments are required to continue until the court orders differently.

A lot of orders end when the recipient gets remarried. Termination when the payer passes away isn’t necessarily systematic; in situations in which the recipient spouse is doubtful to acquire gainful employment, because of age or health issues, the court could order that additional support be taken from the payer’s estate or life insurance revenue.

Alimony Trends

Previously a lot of alimony awards provided for payments to previous wives by wage earning previous husbands. Since culture has changed, so now that a lot marriages comprise of two wage earners, women are deemed as more independent, and men are more fitting to be principal parents, the court and spousal support awards have kept on track. Increasingly, the practice of men paying and women getting spousal support is getting diminished, and orders for alimony payments from ex-wife to ex-husband are on the increase.

Alimony trends are also changing because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that legalized same-sex marriages throughout the nation. This has given an increase to alimony orders in same-sex divorce cases in which partners with higher earnings are going to be required to pay spousal support to a dependent same-sex spouse.

Reach out to a Family Law Attorney for Your Alimony Questions

The matter of alimony is going to come up in most divorces, whether it’s through mediated settlements, or a divorce trial. Since it’s often difficult to establish yourself financially following a divorce, alimony can play a crucial role in helping to adjust to life following a failed marriage. To better understand your options, and if you could owe or get spousal support, it’s important to talk to an experienced divorce law attorney near you.


    1. Spousal support (alimony) basics. Findlaw. (2019, October 7). Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://www.findlaw.com/family/divorce/spousal-support-alimony-basics.html.

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