Definition of alimony
Known since 1655, from Latin alimonia ("food, support, nourishment, sustenance"), itself from alere ("to nourish") + -monia ("action, state, condition").
alimony (plural alimonies)
- (law) A court-enforced allowance made to a former spouse by a divorced or legally separated person.
- The means to support life.
Alimony, [[maintenance]] or spousal support is an obligation established by divorce law in many countries. This obligation is based on the premise that both spouses have an absolute obligation to support each other during their marriage (or civil union) unless they are legally separated. In many instances, the obligation to support may continue after separation or divorce.
Alimony is not child support, which is another ongoing financial obligation often established in divorce. Child support is where one parent is required to contribute to the support of his or her children through the agency of the child's other parent or guardian.
Alimony is treated very differently from child support in the United States with respect to taxation. Alimony is treated as income to the receiving spouse, and deducted from the income of the paying spouse. Child support is not a payment that affects U.S. taxes as it is viewed as a payment that a parent is making for the support of their own offspring.
If a party fails to pay alimony, there are not generally any special legal options available to the party that is owed money. In many jurisdictions, people whose child support obligations go into arrears can have licenses seized; in a few states they can even be imprisoned. Someone trying to recover back alimony can sometimes only use the collection procedures that are available to all other creditors (for example, (s)he could report the back alimony to a collection agency). In some states, if someone is unable to pay all of his or her alimony, he or she will be found in contempt of court and placed in jail.
Factors affecting alimony
Some of the possible factors that bear on the amount and duration of the support are:
- Length of the marriage: Generally alimony lasts for a term or period, that will be longer if the marriage lasted longer. A marriage of over 10 years is often a candidate for permanent alimony.
- Time separated while still married:In some U.S. states, separation is a triggering event, recognized as the end of the term of the marriage. Other U.S. states (such as New Jersey) do not recognize separation or legal separation. In a state not recognizing separation, a 2-year marriage followed by an 8-year separation will generally be treated like a 10-year marriage.
- Age of the parties at the time of the divorce: Generally more youthful spouses are considered to be more able to 'get on' with their lives, and therefore thought to require shorter periods of support.
- Relative income of the parties: In U.S. states that recognize a right of the spouses to live 'according to the means to which they have become accustomed', alimony attempts to adjust the incomes of the spouses so that they are able to approximate, as best possible, their prior lifestyle.
- Future financial prospects of the parties: A spouse who is going to realize significant income in the future is likely to have to pay higher alimony than one who is not.
- Health of the parties: Poor health goes towards need, and potentially an inability to support oneself. The courts do not want to leave one party indigent.
- Fault in marital breakdown:In U.S. states where fault is recognized, fault can significantly affect alimony, increasing, reducing or even nullifying it. Many U.S. states are 'no-fault' states, where one does not have to show fault to get divorced. No-fault divorce spares the spouses the acrimony of the 'fault' processes, and closes the eyes of the court to any and all improper spousal behavior.
- Gender of the recipient: In general, women are more likely to be granted alimony than men, due to the fact that, historically, men make more money than women, and are less likely to have gaps in employment due to childrearing.
- Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.