Spousal Support (Alimony)

When a married couple gets divorced, the court might award “alimony” or spousal support to one of the ex-spouses, on the basis of an agreement among the couple or a court made decision is reached. This is different from marital property division and a decision is made on a case-by-case basis.

A lot of individuals have questions concerning alimony vs. child support also. Alimony is unlike child support payments since child support payments are only to be used for minor children when they are in the care of the custodial parent. Below details the basics of alimony or spousal support.

What Is Alimony?

The intent of alimony is to limit any unjust economic impacts of a divorce by providing continual income to a no-wage-earning or lower-lesser-earning spouse. An aspect of the justification is that an ex-spouse might have chosen to forfeit their career to care for the family and needs time to establish job skills for supporting themselves. Another intention might be to help a spouse continue the quality of life they had throughout marriage despite changes of income, income taxes, bonuses, income that is taxable, tax returns, and so on.

How the Alimony Amount Established

Distinct from child support, in which most states are mandated in accordance to very specified monetary regulations, courts have wide discretion in establishing whether to award spousal support and, in such a case, the amount, and for what duration. The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, on which a lot of states’ alimony laws are based, suggests that courts take into consideration the below factors in making decisions dealing with alimony awards:

  • Age, physical state, mental state, and financial standing of the ex-spouses;
  • Duration the recipient would require for schooling or training to become self-reliant
  • Couple’s standard of living throughout the marriage;
  • Duration of the marriage; and
  • Ability of the one paying to support the recipient and still support themselves.

Alimony and Support Orders

While estimating alimony can be challenging, ensuring the paying spouse complies with the support order is even more unpredictable. Unlike child support, alimony lacks the robust tools like wage garnishment. However, recipients can return to court for contempt proceedings to enforce payment. As alimony is a court-ordered obligation, the same enforcement measures for any court order apply to an ex-spouse owed payment.

What is the Duration Alimony must Be Paid?

Alimony is often viewed as “rehabilitative,” meaning it lasts until the recipient becomes self-sufficient, usually after education. If the divorce decree lacks a specified end date, payments continue until the court decides otherwise.

Most awards end upon the recipient’s remarriage. Termination upon the payer’s death isn’t automatic. In situations where the recipient can’t find employment due to age or health, the court may order continued support from the payer’s estate or life insurance proceeds.

Alimony Trends

In the past, it often involved husbands paying ex-wives. However, with evolving societal norms—where both spouses work, women are seen as less dependent, and men may take on primary parenting roles—alimony trends are shifting. The traditional notion of men paying and women receiving alimony is diminishing. Increasingly, courts are ordering payments from ex-wives to ex-husbands.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, legalizing same-sex marriages nationwide, impacts alimony. Same-sex divorce cases show increased alimony orders, obligating wealthier spouses to support their less financially independent ex-partners.

Get a Hold of a Divorce Law Attorney for Your Spousal Support Questions

A common issue in divorces, whether settled out of court or through a trial. Recovering financially after divorce can be challenging, and it can be crucial in helping you adapt to post-marriage life. To explore your options and determine if you may owe or receive alimony, it’s essential to consult with a skilled divorce law attorney in your locality.


    1. Spousal support (alimony) basics. Findlaw. (2019, October 7). Retrieved June 2, 2022, from

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