Alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance, is an amount of money paid from one spouse to another upon divorce or dissolution of marriage to support the partner in a lesser financial situation, based either upon an agreement made by the couple or a decision handed down from the courts. It’s a system of payment which arises out of the notion that both spouses have an obligation to support each other financially during marriage, and so some level of support may continue in order that both spouses, when separated, have the ability to approximate the lifestyle they enjoyed during marriage. However, alimony differs significantly from child support, which is a court-ordered periodic payment often made by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for the care and support of the child, and is absolutely legally binding.
Like child support, alimony is paid in periodic installments and is generally terminated upon the death or remarriage of one of the spouses, similarly to the former which also ends at a certain time, that being the emancipation of the child. However, they differ in that alimony is taxable to the recipient and deductible by the paying spouse, and as a result many high-income spouses are much better off paying alimony than child support, as child support, in contrast, is paid in after-tax dollars. Therefore, a spouse with an income of $200,000 yearly can make a $50,000 alimony payment and be taxed only for $150,000 in earnings rather than being taxed on the full $200,000 and then making a child support payment.
Alimony is generally awarded based upon several possible factors, all of which can help determine the amount and duration of the payment. Courts often take into consideration the length of marriage, the current and future financial situations of both parties, the age of both parties at the time of divorce, the health of both parties, and in some states, time separated while still married and distribution of fault in the marital dissolution. In general, alimony will last for a longer period if the marriage was a long one or if the spouses are of an older age, and a larger payment sum will be granted a spouse of lower income or of relative inability to support him or herself.
Four different types of alimony can be awarded pursuant divorce: temporary, rehabilitative, permanent, and reimbursement alimony. Temporary alimony is awarded between the time of separation and divorce, rehabilitative alimony is normally paid for a fixed period during which the receiving spouse can become self-sufficient either through education or job experience, permanent alimony is paid until the death of either spouse or the remarriage of the recipient, and reimbursement alimony is intended to reimburse one spouse for expenses incurred by the other. In each case the type and amount of spousal support is dependent upon the financial distrubution and sitaution in the marriage, and in order to qualify as alimony a payment must be: made in cash, designated as alimony, made between payer and payee not within the same household, and received due to a written separation or divorce agreement.