Definition of Alimony

Alimony, which is more commonly referred to as spousal support, is any money paid from one spouse to the other when they are divorcing or after the divorce is finalized. The court determines how alimony will be paid and may decide it is not needed, it should be paid in one lump sum payment, or it should be paid only for a particular amount of time.

Alimony is not always granted in divorce. Prior to deciding whether a spouse should receive alimony the court will consider whether each spouse is able to earn a living, the spouse’s work skills, the ability of one spouse to make alimony payments, and whether the receiving spouse will be caring for small children. The courts will also consider the lifestyle each spouse was accustomed to during the marriage, the debts the couple has accumulated, the tax implications of paying and receiving alimony and the marital assets which are available for distribution.

It is also not unusual for one spouse to stay home for an extended period of time and care for children or to work while the other spouse obtains an education. In these cases alimony may be offered for a specific period of time so the receiving spouse has time to go back to school or train for new work and support themselves. The method used to allocate alimony varies by state, but in this situation, some states will require alimony be paid for the number of years the spouse worked or stayed at home to care for the children or to support the other spouse.

Alimony decisions may be decided by couples prior to the divorce, especially in more collaborative divorces, but before accepting any type of divorce agreement it is a good idea to discuss the terms with a divorce lawyer to ensure you have enough money to support yourself after the divorce.

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