What is the purpose of alimony?

Alimony or spousal support, are payments made by one spouse to the other after a divorce. Many people do not fully understand the point of alimony. Indeed, alimony can be a bit complicated to figure out under Massachusetts’s law.

Essentially, the purpose of alimony is to avoid unfair financial effects of the divorce on the spouse who earned less income than the other spouse. For example, alimony can provide a source of financial support to help the recipient spouse get back on his or her feet, develop the skills and experience needed to find employment, and/or continue the same standard of living he or she enjoyed during the marriage.

The specific purpose of alimony in any given case depends on the type of alimony. According to Massachusetts law, there are four types of alimony:

  1. General term
  2. Rehabilitative
  3. Reimbursement
  4. Transitional

General term alimony is for spouses who are financially dependent on their former spouse. This type of alimony is paid periodically, usually on a month-by-month basis, for a set duration.

Rehabilitative alimony is intended to help spouses until they can financially support themselves. Due to the nature of this type of alimony, the award is usually for a certain period of time, such as when the recipient spouse finishes a degree, completes job training, or becomes employed.

Reimbursement alimony serves to pay spouses back for what they did to contribute to the other spouse’s well-being. For example, alimony can be awarded to reimburse a spouse for paying for the other spouse to go to school.

Finally, the purpose of transitional alimony is to help spouses adjust to their new post-divorce lifestyle. If a spouse had to move because of the divorce, transitional alimony can also be awarded to help with the relocation costs.

It is important to understand that alimony is not the same thing as child support. Child support is money that one parent pays to the other parent when they no longer live together. Child support is intended to help pay for a child’s needs. Unlike with alimony, child support can be ordered even if the parents were not married.

Alimony is a complicated issue. To find out whether you can expect to pay or receive alimony in your divorce case, consider speaking with an experienced family law attorney.

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