Alimony is payment given by a spouse to the other spouse after a marriage has ended. It is an antiquated notion that only wives may receive alimony. The Supreme Court has held that pursuant to the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, husbands and wives are both entitled to receive alimony.
Alimony attempts to balance the inequities in the parties' earning capability. Alimony is not a reward and it is not meant as punishment for the payor. Rather, the purpose of alimony is to allow each person to maintain a lifestyle, to the extent possible, similar to that existing during the marriage due to their combined efforts, both inside and outside of the home. Alimony payments are tax deductible by the payor and taxable income to the payee.
As part of a divorce, there are several different types of alimony that the family court can award. One type is called permanent alimony, which is paid to the dependent spouse without any final term. It ends when the dependent spouse dies or remarries, or if the supporting spouse dies. Permanent alimony is common in long-term marriages where there is unequal earning ability between the spouses, and the dependent spouse is unable to earn enough income to maintain a lifestyle comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage.
Limited duration alimony, also sometimes called term alimony, is paid for a set length of time. This form of alimony is particularly useful where alimony seems appropriate or necessary but the marriage was not of such a duration that an award of permanent alimony is appropriate.
Rehabilitative alimony, as with limited duration alimony, lasts for a specific time period. However, this form of alimony provides support to a dependent spouse while he/she acquires training or additional education to permit him/her to get a job allowing this spouse to support him/herself. If, at the end of the term the dependent spouse seeks to extend alimony, this spouse must demonstrate what efforts were made to become rehabilitated and why those efforts failed. Unlike limited duration alimony, rehabilitative alimony may be awarded in combination with permanent alimony. Rehabilitative alimony normally is not terminated if the supported spouse marries another person in the future.
Spouse making economic sacrifices during the marriage can be compensated with reimbursement alimony, where one spouse's sacrifices helped to enhance the other spouse's earning capacity. In general, the courts do not embrace the concept of spouses reimbursing one another because marriage is widely considered akin to a partnership. However, if one spouse supports the other so that he/she can earn an advanced degree that will benefit both spouses in the longer term, the court may determine that it is unfair if financial benefits related to such an arrangement remained with the person with the professional degree.