Spousal Support (Alimony) Basics

When a couple divorces, the court generally orders the payment of alimony or spousal support. Alimony is the payment paid by one spouse to the other either as part of the court judgment or an agreement between the spouses. This section provides you with more information about alimony. Click here to download the Alimony Guide.

Purpose of Alimony

The aim of alimony is to remove any unfair financial disadvantage that a spouse may have to endure as a result of the divorce. Generally the alimony is awarded to the spouse with the lower income or the sit at home spouse.

Factors that affect the amount of alimony

While child support is determined by state guidelines, the courts consider many factors when determining the amount of alimony. The alimony statutes of the various states are based on the federal Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act. Generally, the following factors are considered by the court when determining alimony:

• The age, mental & physical health and financial condition of the spouses
• The time required for the lesser earning (or non-earning) spouse to become self sufficient
• The standard of living of the spouses during the marriage
• The duration of the marriage
• The ability to pay alimony

Enforcing Alimony Orders

While it is hard to estimate the amount of alimony, it is even harder to determine if the spouse ordered to pay alimony will comply with the order. Enforcement of alimony order is different from enforcement of child support order. While child support can be enforced through liens, wage garnishments and other methods, the recipient spouse can file contempt proceedings to enforce the order.


Generally, alimony is rehabilitative. It will be awarded for the time required for the recipient spouse to become self sufficient. If the order does not specify the duration of payment, the payments continue till further orders of the court. Generally alimony payments terminate once the recipient remarries. If the paying spouse dies, the alimony may have to be paid from his or her estate if the recipient is unable to get a job because of health or age reasons.


Earlier alimony was paid by the man. Now with changes in the society and more and more women working and earning, the alimony orders have kept pace with the changes in the society. The courts are now increasing ordering payment of alimony to men.

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