Alimony, Maintenance, Spousal Support

U.S. Divorce Law Center





Alimony, Maintenance and Spousal Support Laws in the U.S. Copyright HG.org

Alimony, Maintenance, Spousal Support

Alimony, Maintenance, or Spousal Support is money paid from one spouse to the other for the purpose of supporting the spouse with fewer financial resources. A court awards support on the basis of one spouse’s need or entitlement and the other spouse’s ability to pay.

Long term alimony is becoming less common with the advent and increasingly common instance of two income earners in a marriage. In today’s society, it is now far less common for one spouse to be completely financially dependent on another spouse.


Rehabilitative Support

The most common type of spousal support awarded is rehabilitative support, which is awarded for a finite period to allow the spouse with fewer financial resources to adjust and establish him/herself; perhaps by obtaining an education or job training, or returning to school to complete a degree, in order to become self-supporting.

This type of support is designed to make up for the disadvantage experienced by a spouse who may have left a job or didn’t pursue a career in order to help the other spouse’s career or to raise children and assume family duties. Rehabilitative support is typically only awarded for up to five years.

Some of the typical criteria courts use when considering rehabilitative alimony include the following:
  • Length of the marriage;
  • Age of recipient spouse;
  • Earning capabilities of recipient spouse;
  • Length of recipient spouse’s absence from job market; and
  • Time and expense necessary to educate and train recipient spouse.
Some courts also require an outline of the steps the spouse requesting support will take to achieve self-sufficiency.

Permanent Support

Although far less common, in certain situations, permanent or long-term support is still awarded. If a spouse is unable to become self-supporting due to age, health or disability, a court may award permanent support. When considering this type of support, courts often review the same factors applied when dividing property.

This type of support can end if the recipient spouse remarries or cohabitates. It may also be modified if there is an applicable change in circumstances.

Alimony, Maintenance and Spousal Support Laws by State

Laws related to awarding support to one spouse by the other and determining the type, amount and length of time of the award vary from state to state. The following links provide general overviews of individual states' spousal support laws.


Alimony Articles

  • Dividing Real Property in Divorce
    The most valuable asset in many divorce cases is the marital home. The disposition of this asset can have a significant impact on the financial health of the parties after divorce. Additionally, special considerations must be given to other pieces of real property that the couple owns. There are several options in determining how to deal with real estate in a divorce case. However, there are certain steps that must be taken before considering what is the best solution.
  • Question and Answer: Liability of Debts
    Question: My wife and I are not currently living together. Is my wife legally responsible for the bills? The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, namely the state laws where you live and whether there are any agreements pertaining to debts accumulated during the marriage.
  • Who Is Legally Responsible for Bills When Spouses Are Not Living Together?
    When spouses are not living together, it can be difficult to determine which spouse is legally responsible to pay debts. The timing of when the debt was incurred, the nature of the debt and state law are important considerations in this assessment.
  • How Can a Private Investigator Help in My Divorce Case?
    Divorce is often a contentious experience in which formerly intimate spouses are now adversaries. With this dynamic, spouses may start to hide information or take part in activities that may threaten the well-being of the family. Private investigators are sometimes retained to assist in divorce cases for a number of reasons.
  • How Is Spousal Support Determined?
    Like many issues involving family law, state law largely dictates spousal support matters. This includes whether or not to award spousal support and in what amount.
  • What Assets Are Protected from Divorce Settlements
    Family courts around the country recognize that spouses own some property that is separate from what they accumulated as a marital couple. Those assets that comprise the marital estate are subject to division at the time of divorce while separate property is generally excluded from a divorce award.
  • How to Get a Divorce Without Losing Your Life’s Savings
    Many people want to get divorced, but put off filing paperwork due to the costs associated. However, there are other ways to handle a divorce.
  • If I Hacked My Spouse's Computer during a Divorce Can it be Used Against Me?
    Trying to spy on your spouse should never be done. With the changes made to Florida law including cyber stalking, spying is against the law. This type of action can be considered criminal. Refer to the Florida Statues 784.048.
  • Role of Forensic Accountants in Divorce Cases
    While divorce is often an emotionally-trying experience, at its core, it is a matter of ending a contract between two parties. One of the most contentious aspects of a divorce involves financial matters. In some cases, attorneys or private parties hire forensic accountants to uncover assets and to provide expert testimony at their divorce hearing.
  • Common Stress Factors that Lead to Divorce
    Marriage is one of the most difficult relationships to maintain, and often requires a great deal of effort from both spouses.

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