Alimony, or spousal support, is the legal obligation of an individual to financially support his or her spouse upon a legal separation or divorce. Based on the “Code of Hammurabi”, calling for a man to sustain the woman who birthed his children, alimony originally started as the man financially supporting his spouse; however, in many Western countries alimony has also been paid to the male spouse from the female spouse since the 1970’s.

Once a divorce has been settled, either party may request alimony from the other. There are four primary types of alimony. The first type is temporary alimony. This is a type of alimony that is paid upon separation, prior to the settlement of a divorce. The second type is rehabilitative alimony. With rehabilitative alimony, the spouse who earns less is paid alimony until he or she finds work that enables him or her to be self-sufficient. The third type is permanent alimony which is alimony paid to the spouse who earns less until the death of either spouse, or until the recipient of the alimony is remarried. The fourth type of alimony is called reimbursement alimony. Reimbursement alimony is paid as a reimbursement to the spouse for the expenses accrued throughout the marriage.

Alimony vs. Child Support

While the same parent will likely be paid both alimony as well as child support (should the divorcing couple have kids), there is a difference between the two. Child support is typically calculated using guidelines determined by the state or country in which one resides, whereas alimony is paid at the discretion of the judge in most states. Alimony and spousal support also differ on one’s tax return. Alimony is tax deductible to the payer and included as taxable income for the payee, whereas child support is not deductible to the payer and not taxable income for the payee.