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Alimony, also called spousal support or maintenance, is a regular payment one ex-spouse may be required to pay the other after divorce or separation.

Alimony overview

What is Alimony?

Alimony, also commonly known as spousal support, is a legal obligation to provide financial support to a spouse before or after legal separation or divorce. Alimony is paid from a supporting spouse to a dependent spouse most commonly in the form of recurring payments.

The purpose of spousal support is to remedy any putative unfair economic effects caused by a divorce.

Types of Alimony

Temporary alimony: This particular kind of spousal support is also known as alimony pendente lite and is ordered when you and your spouse are separated prior to a divorce being completed. Rehabilitative alimony: When spousal support is provided to a lesser-earning spouse so that he or she may obtain work and become self-sufficient. Reimbursement alimony: This version of alimony is given for expenses incurred by a spouse during the marriage and to pay back the spouse for time, money, or effort put into the other spouse’s financial resources. Permanent alimony: This kind of support is provided to the lesser-earning spouse until the death of the payor, the death of the recipient, or the remarriage of the recipient. Lump sum alimony: While not available in all states, several states permit a spouse to pay all the alimony due in a single lump sum as long as it equals the total amount of the required future monthly payments.

Will You Pay or Receive Alimony?

Broadly speaking, to answer the question whether or not you will likely qualify to receive alimony is based upon the following factors:

  • Your individual capacity to earn
  • Your spouse’s earnings
  • Your standard of living during your marriage
  • Time separated while still being married
  • Length of your marriage or civil union
  • Health

The amount of alimony you will have to pay or that you will receive varies greatly. A calculator can often help identify the potential costs.

Both you and your spouse will be able to determine the amount and the duration of payments without going to court. If you are unable to arrive at an agreement then a judge will determine how much and for how long alimony should be payed.

The only conditions in which the payments might be stopped are the following:

  • your former spouse remarries
  • one of you dies
  • your children no longer need a full-time parent at home
  • a judge determines that after a reasonable period of time your spouse has not made a an earnest effort to become partially self-supporting
  • some other significant event -- such as retirement -- occurs, convincing a judge to modify the amount and date set by a judge several years in the future

Lastly, It is also important to note that spousal support is taxable to the recipient spouse and can be deducted from the taxes of the payor spouse.

What if Your Spouse Refuses to Pay?

Should a spouse refuse to pay alimony it is best to respond quickly with legal action which will require the help of an attorney who is adept at handling divorce issues.

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