The Different Types of Alimony, Spousal Support, and Spousal Maintenance

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Alimony, spousal support or spousal maintenance are all terms used to describe one thing–money one spouse may be ordered to pay to the other after a divorce.

Alimony, Spousal Support, Spousal Maintenance

Alimony is money paid by one spouse to the other either during the divorce process or after. Who receives alimony depends on who earned the most money during the marriage and the roles the spouses played. Once referred to exclusively as alimony, it is now more commonly called Spousal Maintenance or Spousal Support. It is awarded by a court order to maintain the standard of living that both spouses became used to during the marriage.

Permanent Alimony

Permanent alimony or spousal support will be paid to the recipient until the death of the one paying is the remarriage of the recipient. In some situations, remarriage does not stop alimony. If the marriage was long-term or the spouse has a disability that keeps him/her from being able to work the courts have and will reward lifetime alimony that will continue whether the recipient cohabitates of marries again. The downside is that lump sum alimony is taxable so be sure you know the tax consequences before agreeing to a lump sum payment of alimony.

Temporary Alimony

Temporary alimony will last for a specific period of time. If the divorce causes a financial hardship on a spouse temporary alimony will be awarded until that spouse can recover financially. Your state’s divorce laws and normal judicial practices for the area you divorce in will determine how long temporary alimony will last.

Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony is awarded in cases where a spouse needs assistance with job training or college expenses so they may eventually return to the job force after the divorce. It is common for wives who have been stay at home moms and have not worked in years. Rehabilitative alimony enables a dependent spouse to take classes or special job training that will help them become financially independent.

Points to Consider

All states have laws for determining whether alimony/spousal support/maintenance will be paid. That being said, you should also take into consideration the fact that judges have the right to use judicial discretion when decided such issues. The following factors are usually considered when deciding alimony:

  • Marriage duration.
  • The contribution a spouse makes as a homemaker.
  • Potentially earning ability of both spouses.
  • The age, physical, mental and emotional being of each spouse.
  • Whether or not the custodial parent will earn less due to his/her duty to parent the child/children.

Those factors plus the judicial discretion of the judge play a role in whether a spouse pays alimony and how much. Since the judge has a certain amount of legal leeway it is best to settle alimony issues while negotiating your divorce settlement. That takes control away from the judge and leaves it where it belongs…with you and your spouse.

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