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Though the frequency with which courts award alimony or spousal maintenance has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, there are provisions in every state for different types of spousal support.

Alimony Defined

Alimony, also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, is an order by a court, as part of a divorce proceeding, that one party pay the other party a regular or periodic sum of money after the divorce is final, so that the recipient can maintain a specific standard of living. The grant of alimony is always at the discretion of the court. An award of alimony may be for a specific period time, it may be permanent, or it may be “rehabilitative”—designed to provide support until the recipient is able to be self-sufficient.

The Factors That Go Into an Alimony Consideration

The criteria for determining the need for alimony vary significantly from state to state, but most states include the following factors

  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and health of the parties
  • The earning capacity of both parties
  • All sources of income for both parties
  • The contribution by one spouse to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party
  • The standard of living the parties enjoyed during the marriage
  • The ability of the payor to pay as compared to the need of the recipient

Some, but not all, states also look at whether there was marital misconduct by either party.