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What Is Alimony Law?

Alimony law governs payments to former spouses as part of a divorce.
Laws regarding alimony payments in the U.S. vary by jurisdiction.
Article Details
  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Alimony law provides financial support to a spouse during divorce or legal separation. It continues the obligation of a marriage, with the spouse earning more money usually making payments to the partner who earns less. Alimony law might require payments that are temporary, permanent, and rehabilitative, or paid in a lump sum.

Most countries enforce some form of alimony law, but the specifics vary by region. In the United States, each state may employ different formulas to determine who receives alimony and the term of payments. In some areas, alimony laws also apply to couples who live together but have not formally wed.

Temporary alimony generally involves a maximum amount of time for one spouse to pay the other, usually one to two years. It is designed to help a spouse become self-sufficient after divorce. Temporary alimony can start while a couple is legally separated and continue for a short time after the divorce becomes final. It typically occurs when one part of the couple earns substantially more than the other.

Permanent alimony is rare and provides lifetime support to a divorcing spouse. The payments typically end when either spouse dies, or when the person receiving alimony remarries. Alimony law in some areas states that lifetime payments also cease if the person receiving money cohabits with someone. This law usually applies to long marriages where one spouse has no possible way to earn a living.

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Rehabilitative alimony law is the most common form of spousal support. It provides income until a divorcing spouse can acquire skills or training to become employable. A spouse may return to school during this time, and the support payments allow him or her to pay household expenses while getting an education.

Lump sum alimony represents a single payment from one spouse to the other after divorce. This form of alimony law is generally not limited by cohabitation or remarriage. If a person dies before the single support payment is completed, the money goes into an estate that can be claimed by heirs.

Judges commonly look at how long the couple was married and the medical condition of the husband and wife when determining spousal support. He or she also evaluates how much each partner earns separately, the age of each partner, and whether child support is part of the equation. The level of dependence of one spouse on the other during the marriage might also become a factor during divorce proceedings.

Different countries impose alimony laws to coincide with customs of the region. For example, in India, the law previously considered a wife a lifetime obligation of the husband, even if the couple lived apart. Alimony laws changed in the 1980s as the rate of divorce increased and women became more educated. Men and women may now claim alimony in India if the marriage lasted longer than 10 years, and alimony might continue for life, especially if one spouse is highly successful.

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