Alimony, Maintenance, Spousal Support

U.S. Divorce Law Center

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

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

  • 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.
  • Can I Extend Alimony?
    Alimony – or spousal support as it is called in many jurisdictions – helps provide monetary payments from one spouse to the other spouse after a divorce or separation. Its purpose is to support the spouse receiving the payments during a specified period of time, usually with the goal of this spouse becoming financially independent. However, sometimes the recipient spouse may not yet be financially independent and may wish to extend the duration of alimony payments.
  • Can I Get Palimony?
    Palimony derives its name from alimony that is paid to a person who was living with another person buy the two were not married to each other. It is similar to alimony, but the requirements to receive it may be heightened or not afforded in some jurisdictions.
  • Can I Afford To Get Divorced?
    Few things in life are as emotional as getting divorced. What’s more, no one likes the idea of spending hard-earned money on lawyers, especially given the fact that financial distress is the leading cause of divorce.
  • How Is Equity Determined in a Divorce?
    In many situations, the family home is the most valuable asset in a divorce. It is common for spouses not to agree on how to treat this asset that they both may have been paying for during a number of years. However, determining the equity of a home is a vital component to reaching a final divorce settlement.
  • Fighting for Your Rights in a Divorce When Your Spouse Has all of the Assets and You Have no Money
    Divorce is almost always a difficult time. Aside from the emotional toll of splitting with someone and the possible harm the fight could cause to your children, financial considerations can become enormous stressors. This is particularly true when one spouse has greater financial resources than the other. If this happens to you, what can you do to protect your rights despite the disparity in financial means?
  • 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.
  • Liability of Debts when Spouses No Longer Live Together
    If two spouses are no longer living together, it can be difficult to determine who retains liability of the debt. Which spouse is responsible for the debt depends on a number of factors, namely the state laws where the spouses 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.

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