4 Types of Spousal Support or Alimony Explained

What kind of spousal support will you receive?

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Whether or not a spouse receives, spousal support or alimony depends on several factors. Among those factors is the duration of the marriage, the ability of one spouse to pay and the earning ability of the other spouse. The norm is rehabilitative alimony but that is only one type a spouse can receive. 

If you have been in a long-term marriage and both spouses work, with comparable incomes and pension plans then, more than likely there will be no spousal support.

If, however, you have been in a long-term marriage and you were a stay at home mom, have no marketable skills and no pension plan of your own you will probably receive spousal support. By the way, most states consider a marriage of ten years or more to be “long-term.”

What type of spousal support you receive will depend on the financial situation in the marriage and the laws governing spousal support in your state of residency. 


Below is a description of each type of spousal support and when they are awarded




1. Temporary Spousal Support/Alimony:


Also referred to as “pendente lite,” temporary spousal support is given when the parties are separated and the divorce is not yet final. This is given so that the spouse may maintain her/his lifestyle between the time the couple separates and divorces. It is often awarded via a temporary court order.


2. Rehabilitative Spousal Support/Alimony:


Rehabilitative spousal support is awarded for a short period and is meant to help a spouse “rehabilitate” himself/herself.

It is paid so that the spouse may either obtain job training, an education or job experience or become more self-sufficient. It is also given to the mother of small children so that she may stay home with them until they reach school age.

Rehabilitative spousal support is normally set for a fixed period.

The parties can agree to a timeline or the courts can mandate a timeline. If you are the receiving spouse you will want to make sure that your final divorce decree states that the need for spousal support is subject to review later. This means the court may look at the facts of a case and determine if spousal support should be continued, discontinued, or the amount changed.


3. Permanent Spousal Support/Alimony:


Permanent spousal support continues until the death of the payor, the death of the recipient or the remarriage of the recipient. In some cases, it can continue after the remarriage of the recipient. It is a good idea if you are receiving permanent spousal support to request that your spouse carry a life insurance policy with you as the beneficiary. If he/she dies you will not have to suffer the financial consequences of losing your spousal support.

Permanent spousal support can be adjusted upwards or downwards based on a change of circumstance. An adjustment in the amount of support depends on any financial changes in the life of the payor of the recipient. If the recipient obtains a job with a higher salary, the payor can petition the courts to modify the spousal support so that he/she is paying less.

If the recipient suffers a loss of salary or a traumatic medical problem he/she can petition the courts and request an increase in support.


4. Reimbursement Spousal Support/Alimony:


Reimbursement Spousal Support is paid so that a spouse can “reimburse” the other spouse for certain expenses incurred by the other. For example, if you are married to a doctor and you worked and help put him/her through medical school, you may be able to obtain reimbursement spousal support that will payback the money you spent to help build your spouse’s career. The payments can be made in a lump sum or over a period of time.