Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a payment from one divorcing spouse to another. There are several different types of alimony, and they differ in length and purpose.
The first type of alimony is called alimony pendent lite, or temporary alimony. This type of support is usually ordered during the early stages of a divorce, and is meant to help support one spouse during the divorce process only. It can include payment meant to cover anything from day-to-day expenses to legal fees during the divorce. It almost always will automatically cease when the divorce is finalized.
Permanent alimony is a regular, recurring payment from one spouse to another after the finalization of the divorce. It is usually specifically ordered in the divorce. Though there is no set end date, the divorce decree may contain provisions that specify conditions that would potentially end the alimony. Often these conditions include things such as remarriage by the spouse receiving payments or a substantial change in income of either party.
In some relationships, one partner forgoes education or work opportunities to support the family in other ways. In those situations, the court may order rehabilitative alimony. This type of support is typically specific to helping a spouse obtain education or training needed to enter the workforce in order to become self-supporting. It could also be ordered to help support a spouse during a job search. This type of alimony is usually only ordered for a short amount of time, with the expectation that the receiving spouse will become self-supporting by the end of the support period.
The court also may order reimbursement alimony. This type of alimony is meant to reimburse a spouse for costs incurred while helping the other spouse obtain an education or degree. Typically the spouse who obtained the education or degree will have to pay the reimbursement alimony in a set amount for a determined length of time, depending on the exact amount of money spent initially on education or training.
The final type of alimony is a lump sum payment from one spouse to the other. Alimony in gross can be used to offset an unequal property distribution in a decision. One spouse may decide that in lieu of real estate, cars, or other joint property, he or she would be willing to accept a one-time lump sum payment. Alternately, the court may determine that it is fairer for one party to keep more of the physical property while the other is given an offsetting monetary award.
The availability of alimony varies from state to state. The types of alimony above are typically available in most states. The particular alimony available will vary from situation to situation.