Alimony Evolving

Aug 8, 2012 by

The state of marriage in the U.S. today has been evolving with time and the laws surrounding both marriage and divorce have also changed to keep up with the changes in American society over the years. Most recently, several states have moved to press for changes in their laws governing alimony and other forms of spousal support following a divorce. Back before women had entered the workforce in large numbers, it was common to require ex-husbands to pay alimony indefinitely due to the difficulty most ex-wives faced when trying to support themselves on their own.

Unlike in years past, recent changes in society and especially the workplace have made an ex-spouse’s habitation and economic circumstances primary factors in many alimony awards. Requiring one spouse to pay lifetime alimony to the other after a brief marriage is becoming less relevant to the way Americans live today. Alimony laws that would limit the amounts and lengths of the payments to take into account the length of a marriage are more realistic and could allow more mutual negotiation. Changes in habitation status can be equally important in alimony awards. It is no longer fair to allow an ex-wife to live with a new partner and still receive monthly alimony payments from her ex-husband.

As divorce and marriage change, the laws must change as well, but in the past it was very common when one spouse would earns far more money than the other.  In many cases the typical American wife earned no money at all and instead was in charge of maintaining the household and family. When a divorce occurred, the spouse without an income was often hard pressed to support themselves. That unfortunate situation was the basis for most of the alimony and support laws currently used in this country and the main reason judges awarded alimony payments. Once the payments have been ordered, they will typically fall into one of five categories.

Five Types of Alimony:

Separation Alimony
Separation alimony is paid when a couple is separated and one spouse cannot support themselves during the separation.  If the couple reconciles or ultimately gets divorced, the separation alimony can be changed or halted altogether.

Rehabilitative Alimony
Rehabilitative alimony is also ordered when a couple is separated and one spouse cannot support themselves, but the award will typically only last until that spouse can care for themselves and any children that might be involved. Rehabilitative alimony allows the recipient the time needed to seek employment and the court may review the progress of the recipient at specific intervals. The length of time rehabilitative alimony will last is determined by the factors in each individual situation.

Permanent Alimony
Permanent alimony occurs when a judge orders that payments will continue indefinitely. This indefinite award is usually based on a factor that makes the recipient permanently unable to become self-sufficient. Permanent alimony does not end until one spouse dies, the recipient gets re-married or begins living with someone else.

Lump-Sum Alimony
Lump-sum alimony is when the court orders a single, one-time alimony payment instead of ongoing support. It is often awarded in lieu of real property or other assets a married couple has accumulated during the course of the marriage.  

Reimbursement Alimony
Reimbursement alimony occurs when one spouse has made sacrifices in time or in employment opportunities in order to permit the other spouse to complete educational or work-related programs that enable them to earn a higher income. In many cases, reimbursement alimony payments will continue until the education costs have been repaid.


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