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

  • Your Options When a Change in Income Makes it Hard to Pay Spousal Support in Pennsylvania
    Alimony in Pennsylvania is calculated based on a list of 17 spousal support criteria. These criteria are based on each spouse’s income during the marriage and at the time of the divorce. But, circumstances can change. Can alimony orders be modified if one spouse’s income changes significantly?
  • Do I Have a Right to a Family Business in Divorce?
    When contemplating divorce, spouses may think about the family home, real estate, financial accounts and maybe even retirement accounts. However, one important asset that should also be considered is whether a family business may be subject to marital distribution.
  • Special Considerations for Gray Divorces
    When a couple gets divorced later in life, this is dubbed a “gray divorce.” Older individuals often have different issues to deal with during the divorce process than individuals of other age brackets. These special considerations include:
  • Why Should I Go through Divorce Mediation?
    Divorce mediation is an alternative to litigating issues. In some jurisdictions, mediation is required in all family law cases. However, mediation can also be proposed by one of the parties even absent the court’s order to participate in it.
  • What Decisions Does the Judge Make in Divorce Cases?
    A family law judge has a tremendous amount of power in divorce cases. He or she may make a variety of decisions that can impact spouses for years to come.
  • What Is the Difference Between Fault and No-Fault Divorce?
    When a spouse petitions for divorce, he or she usually has two options. He or she can either ask for a divorce based on no-fault grounds or he or she can file based on fault-grounds. The option he or she chooses depends on the state laws where he or she lives and the particular circumstances of the case.
  • Basics of Pennsylvania Family Law Litigation
    What does “going to court” mean? That depends on whether you’re referring to the world of prime-time television (L.A. Law for my generation) or the real world of family law litigation. On prime-time television, it means filing an action and a short time later having a full hearing before a judge with everything wrapped up within an hour. The real world is much different.
  • How to Enforce Court Orders in Divorce
    When a person receives an order in a divorce case, this order is backed up by the power of the court. If a spouse refuses to comply with the instructions included in the court order, there are usually ways to compel the spouse to follow the judge’s instructions.
  • 6 Things to Do After Receiving Divorce Papers
    Sometimes divorce is finally filed after years of separation and is well anticipated. In other cases, it comes as a complete surprise to the person receiving paperwork. After receiving divorce papers, individuals must take immediate action to protect their legal rights and future.
  • Cohabitation under the New Alimony Statue: Whose Law Is it Anyway?
    By now most New Jersey residents are aware of the 2014 amendments to the NJ alimony statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23.

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