What is alimony and how is it determined?

Domestic & FamilyQuestions & Answers (2007)

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Alimony or spousal maintenance is money paid by one spouse for the support and maintenance of the other spouse. When a party starts a divorce proceeding, he or she may need the immediate intervention of the court to establish temporary alimony as a part of other types of temporary relief. The amount of temporary alimony is based upon the financial circumstances existing at that time, as presented to the court in written Affidavits and Financial Statements. Some states or counties have written guidelines used by Judges to establish temporary alimony which is paid until the divorce becomes final. Alimony awarded in the divorce decree can be temporary, lasting for a specified time, or can be permanent, intended to continue at the same payment indefinitely into the future or until a time specified by the court. Each state treats alimony in its own particular fashion; therefore, an attorney should be consulted in that particular state before any alimony is assessed. Please see specific state for details and/or differences.

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What is alimony and how is it determined?

This is not a substitute for legal advice. An attorney must be consulted.


Alimony is money paid by one spouse for the support and maintenance of the other spouse. Alabama law provides that if either spouse has no separate property, or if the separate property is insufficient for the maintenance of a spouse, the judge at his or her discretion may order to a spouse an allowance out of the estate of the other spouse, taking into consideration the value of the property and the condition of the spouse?s family. However, the judge may not take into consideration any property acquired prior to the marriage of the parties or by inheritance or gift, unless the judge finds from the evidence that the property, or income produced by the property, has been used regularly for the common benefit of the parties during their marriage. Facts which the court should consider in determining an award of alimony include the future prospects of the parties, their ages, health, station in life, length of marriage, and the conduct of the parties with respect to the cause of the divorce.

Alabama Code 30-2- 51.

Alabama law specifically provides that the misconduct of a spouse may be considered by the court in determining the award of alimony, as well as an award of property.

Alabama Code 30-2-52.

Any divorce decree providing for payment of alimony shall be modified by the court to provide for the termination of alimony upon petition by the other party and proof that the spouse receiving alimony has remarried, or that the spouse receiving alimony is living openly or cohabiting with a member of the opposite sex.

Alabama Code 30-2 -55.


The court may provide for reasonable spousal maintenance in response to a party?s Application for Temporary Relief. The primary factors which should be considered in awarding temporary spousal maintenance are the relative economic circumstances and needs of the parties and the ability to pay the maintenance. In the judgment concluding the divorce action, the court may award spousal maintenance for a limited or indefinite period of time, as may be just and necessary without regard to which of the parties is at fault. An award of maintenance must fairly allocate the economic effect of divorce by being based on a consideration of the following factors: 1) the length of the marriage and the parties? standard of living during the marriage; 2) the age and health of the parties; 3) the earning capacity of the parties including their educational backgrounds, training, and employment skills; 4) the financial condition of the parties including the availability and cost of health insurance; 5) whether there has been unreasonable depletion of marital assets; 6) the division of property being made by the court; and 7) any other factors the court determines to be relevant in each individual case.

AS 25.24.140 and 25.24.160.


The court may order spousal maintenance if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance: 1) lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her reasonable needs; or 2) is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home; or 3) contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse; or 4) had a marriage of long duration and is of an age which may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to support himself or herself.

The maintenance order shall be in such amounts and for such periods of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital misconduct, and after considering all relevant factors including: 1) the standard of living established during the marriage; 2) the duration of the marriage; 3) the age and employment history and earning ability and physical condition of the spouse seeking maintenance; 4) the ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his or her needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance; 5) the comparative financial resources of the spouses including their comparative earning abilities; 6) the contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse; 7) the extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced his or her income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse; 8) the ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children; 9) the financial resources of the party seeking maintenance and that party?s ability to meet his or her needs...

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