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What Is the Meaning of Alimony?

Alimony, also referred to as maintenance or spousal support in some states of the United States of America, is a payment you may need to make to your spouse in the event of a divorce. Alimony payments are not usually ordered in short-lived marriages or marriages where spouses earn an equal or near-close income.

What is the Meaning of Alimony?

While alimony payments cover the surface meaning of the concept, delving deeper gives an insight into how the concept of alimony works for both spouses and what is alimony in purpose.

The concept of alimony has been in existence for over 100 years. Though the extent to which the concept is used has decreased, alimony has not become alien, and cannot be expected to be stopped by law any time soon. Alimony is now a reality of marriage, not just divorce.

If you are, as a spouse, expecting to make, or receive, alimony payments, then here are some things you may want to know:

  • Alimony is not awarded in every divorce settlement nor is it every former spouse’ privilege to receive an alimony.

Alimony is awarded to a former spouse only if the spouse is not in a financial position to take care of needs after the divorce, and you are stronger financially to afford such support.

If you are a spouse expecting to receive alimony, then understand that multiple factors including your earning potential, the standard of living during the time you were married, and the income of your former spouse, are considered to determine if you qualify for alimony.

What Is Alimony

If you have not been in full-time employment for a considerable time, then the court may appoint experts to determine your employability, and report the same. Such experts may conduct tests to assess your vocational skills and research the employment market to determine the earning potential of your skills if applied.

  • Alimony can be temporary, applicable till such time as say, your children grow up, or your former spouse becomes eligible to reenter the job market by completing a career program or acquiring job skills or any other such means.
  • Alimony can be permanent in certain unavoidable situations such as where the spouse is incapable of becoming self-reliant financially due to a disability, or age.
  • Alimony payments are tax-deductible only if the divorce agreement was made before December 31, 2018. The Republican Tax Bill of 2017 eliminated such deductions with effect from January 1, 2019.

If you are a receiver of alimony, then you need not include the amount in your gross income as it is no longer a taxable income for the spouse receiving the payments.

  • If you refuse to pay alimony payments as a spouse required to do so by law, then you are committing an unlawful act, and you may be jailed for the offense.

The entitled recipient can take immediate legal action and have the former spouse comply with court order either through an “earnings assignment order” or a “contempt of court” proceeding.


What Is Alimony Based On
What is Alimony Payment?

Alimony payment is the specified amount of money you need to make to your spouse every month upon the orders of a court. The chances of being ordered to make an alimony payment are high if you are earning considerably more than your spouse.

What is Alimony Based On?

Alimony payments and modifications are based on multiple factors. If your spouse has been awarded an alimony payment, then you have to make such payments until such time as any of the following:

  • Specified by a judge.

The judge declares a future date until which such payments need to be made. The future date usually goes into several years from the date on which such alimony was awarded.

  • A judge orders a modification after determining that your former spouse has not put in adequate effort to become self-supportive, at least partially, even after a reasonable span of time.
  • Your former spouse gets married.
  • Your children outgrow the need for a full-time parent.
  • The event of your former spouse’ or your own death.
  • The occurrence of any event such as a retirement that makes a judge believe that a modification to the existing alimony arrangement is necessary.

It is possible, as it is the case in many divorces, to settle on an agreement regarding alimony payment. When such an agreement cannot be reached, a court gets involved to set the terms for the alimony.


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