Discussing the six basic types of alimony

In our last post, we began a discussion about alimony, which is also referred to as spousal support or spousal maintenance. The laws governing alimony vary by state, with some states using a fairly generic template that is oversimplified and difficult to customize for a given couple’s situation. Thankfully, Missouri laws largely leave alimony awards up to the discretion of judges.

If states truly want to “reform” or “fix” alimony laws, the answer is not to do away with the practice altogether. Rather, states should take advantage of the many types of alimony. In today’s posts, we’ll discuss six basic types.

There are times when one spouse requires financial support prior to finalizing the divorce. As such, some judges will award temporary alimony to be paid during the time that a couple is legally separated and in the process of divorce.

Next, there are three similar types of alimony characterized as limited-duration and paid after the divorce has been finalized. The most basic is referred to as durational alimony, and is generally awarded to the lesser-earning spouse based on a formula that accounts for things like the length of the marriage. In most cases, durational alimony won’t be paid for longer than the length of time that a couple was married.

Two other types of limited-duration alimony are meant to achieve specific financial goals. They include:

  • Rehabilitative alimony: financial support which is paid until the lesser-earning spouse can become self-sufficient through his or her own employment
  • Reimbursement alimony: financial support meant to reimburse one spouse for the costs they incurred on behalf of the other spouse (such as supporting the spouse while they went back to school)

The two final types include lump-sum alimony and permanent alimony. Lump-sum is much like a divorce settlement. It is a predetermined, fixed amount of spousal support to be paid all at once or in a number of installments.

Permanent alimony is perhaps the most controversial form of spousal support among groups calling for alimony reform. It calls for the higher-earning spouse to support the lesser-earning spouse until the recipient either dies or gets remarried.

These are six basic types of alimony used in many states. As you can see, most allow for customization to truly meet a given couple’s circumstances. Hopefully, more jurisdictions will adopt these formulas to truly make all alimony awards fair and reasonable.

Source: TIME Money, “Alimony Is Broken — But Let’s Not Fix It,” Lili A. Vasileff, Sept. 1, 2014

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