Alimony is a form of financial support given from one spouse to the other. Typically, it’s designed to help the lower-income spouse obtain financial stability — or even continue their standard of living after a divorce.
There are several different kinds of alimony. Whether you expect to pay or receive some form of spousal support after your divorce, it helps to consider the different ways that alimony can be used.
1. Temporary alimony
Temporary spousal support, also known as pendente lite support, is awarded during the divorce proceedings. Its primary purpose is to ensure that the lower-earning spouse has the financial means to cover immediate needs such as housing, living expenses, and legal fees. This makes it possible for both spouses to use the marital funds to obtain legal guidance and protect their interests. At a final divorce hearing, the court may revisit and modify the spousal support arrangement.
2. Rehabilitative alimony
Many dependent spouses don’t have incomes and have been out of work for years to raise their children or support the working spouse’s career. As a result, they may not have the skills, education or qualified training to obtain gainful employment after the divorce. Rehabilitative spousal support is geared towards helping the lower-earning spouse acquire the skills or education necessary to become self-supporting. The court may order this type of support for a specific period, allowing the recipient spouse time to complete education or training programs that enhance their employability. Once the spouse returns to work and becomes self-supporting or after a fixed amount of time, the rehabilitative alimony stops. There are still ways this fixed duration support can terminate, but the main terminating event would be the expiration of the time for the award.
3. Permanent alimony
Permanent spousal support is less common and is typically awarded in cases where one spouse is unlikely to become self-supporting due to factors such as age, health, or disability. The court considers various factors, including the length of the marriage and the financial needs of both parties, in determining the amount and duration of permanent spousal support. Permanent alimony can remain until the payor spouse passes away, the receiving spouse passes away, or the receiving spouse either remarries or is found to have been in a relationship with someone analogous to marriage for the statutorily required time.
4. Lump-sum alimony
In some cases, the court may order a one-time, lump-sum spousal support payment instead of ongoing monthly payments. Sometimes it’s more advantageous for all of the alimony gets paid at once, in a lump-sum. That may be done to help finance something the receiving spouse wants, for tax purposes or just to be done with all financial ties. This approach can also be suitable when a clear financial settlement is possible, and both parties agree on a fixed amount.
It often significantly helps both spouses to understand what alimony is and how they may be affected by it. People who don’t understand their options before marriage or during divorce may benefit greatly from legal help.