What are the different types of alimony (spousal support)?

Alimony, aka spousal support, is typically awarded by the state when a dependent spouse has insufficient income to maintain the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage due to the loss of income from the other spouse. When it comes to alimony, there are three basic types :

  • Rehabilitative
  • Modifiable
  • Non-Modifiable
  • Lifetime Alimony

Rehabilitative Alimony

Typically ordered by the court, this spousal support is awarded when the spouse needs education or training in order to re-enter the workplace. The duration tends to be relatively short when compared with the other forms of spouse support. In some states, the term “Reimbursement Alimony” is used.

Modifiable Alimony

As the name suggests, this type of alimony can be modified. It tends to be longer in duration than rehabilitative and is intended to supplement the spouse’s income, based on living needs. By going back into court, either party can request that the payment amount be adjusted up or down based on a change of circumstance.

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Non-Modifiable Alimony

Unlike modifiable alimony, in this case payment is fixed and cannot be changed. This support supplements a spouses income based on a variety of lifestyle needs for a given duration.

Lifetime Alimony

As the name implies, lifetime alimony payments are made until death and irrespective of the spouse’s financial ability to pay and even if they are retired. There are few states that have this type of alimony.

States that still have this at time of publication are Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, Florida, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Oregon and the qualification requirements vary — usually it is only for much longer marriages where one spouse has not worked

All alimony is typically paid on a periodic basis for a set duration although it’s also possible to pay in a lump sum. The payment amount and duration is based on a variety of factors, though there is no set formula or standard form for determining the amount.

The payment amount is determined by events and factors specific to your marriage. Some of these factors include:

  • Duration of the marriage
  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • Income earned and unearned by each spouse.
    • This may include wages, benefits, dividends, insurance, or social security
  • Total assets and liabilities of each spouse
  • Earning potential for each spouse
  • Federal, state and local tax ramifications for the alimony award
  • Relative need of each spouse
  • Contributions made by each spouse during the marriage
  • Physical and mental state of each spouse.
  • Marital misconduct on the part of either spouse during the marriage

Alimony usually ends when the duration date is reached, when the dependent spouse becomes involved in a “marriage like” relationship or if either spouse dies.


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