5 Alimony Facts


Some individuals involved in a divorce case seek what commonly is known as alimony and in some jurisdictions is called spousal maintenance. In fact, there has been a movement over the course of the past two decades to substitute the legal term "spousal maintenance" for "alimony," under the theory that the former more accurately reflects the nature of the payment from one spouse to another.

A person involved in a divorce case in which spousal maintenance is likely to become an issue needs to understand some basic facts about this type of support. There are five that should be borne in mind when considering spousal maintenance.

Alimony is Net Necessarily Permanent

Long gone are the days in which a spouse (usually a woman) was awarded alimony for an indefinite period of time, often until the receiving spouse died or remarried. Today, in the vast majority of cases, alimony is awarded for a set period of time. Designed to assist a party to divorce in reestablishing financial independence, spousal maintenance permits a spouse to rebuild life after marriage by embarking on things such as a new course of employment or education.

Calculating Alimony

Nearly all jurisdictions utilize a set formula to calculate the amount of alimony or spousal support, and the period of time it is to be paid. The amount usually is based on a consideration of the income of the parties during the course of the marriage. The length of time spousal maintenance is paid is derived from a calculation that centers on the length of the marriage. Other factors can also come into play including how assets and debts are distributed.

Paying Alimony

There are two general ways in which alimony is paid. The most common way is through recurring payments over a set period of time. Alimony can also be paid in a lump sum.

Establishing an Alimony Order

The laws in nearly all jurisdictions require that an alimony order be entered while a divorce case is pending. An alimony order cannot normally be entered after a divorce case runs its course.

Alimony Agreement

The parties to a divorce can enter into a voluntary agreement between them regarding alimony. The agreement must be approved by the court.

Alimony is never presumed to be required in a divorce case, like child support when the parties to a marriage termination have children. A motion must be filed by the party desiring alimony or spousal support to initiate a process through which the court considers the propriety of alimony in a case.