Not many people marry a doctor, but a lot of people DO marry medical students. That’s why so many doctors end up paying reimbursement alimony, which is the alimony that a former spouse receives from the other for any expenses that the former may have paid on behalf of the latter.
As the name implies, “reimbursement alimony” is alimony that reimburses an ex-spouse for some expense or expenses that he or she may have paid earlier in the marriage.
For example, Kathleen supported Michael by working as a secretary during the three years he attended medical school. She expected to share in his income when he completed school and became established as a doctor, but it didn’t turn out that way. When Kathleen and Michael parted ways, the court awarded her the modest house they managed to buy during his residency. The proceeds of that house compensated her for the expenses she incurred during Michael’s medical school education as well as her expectations of sharing in his income as a doctor.
Reimbursement alimony can be a lump sum, but it is more likely to be paid out over a period of time.
For example, in the case of Michael and Kathleen, she was entitled to reimbursement alimony, but Michael would only be able to pay her as he begins to get paid for his medical practice. A lump-sum settlement would not be an appropriate solution in this situation.
Courts award reimbursement alimony when one spouse supports the other during school, while that spouse receives a degree, but they divorce soon after the degree is received.
Should they divorce several years later, it is unlikely that the wife would receive reimbursement alimony because the likelihood of reimbursement alimony lessens the greater the time between the receiving of the degree and the end of the marriage. On the other hand, she may be able to receive part of the value of the degree in the equitable distribution of the marital assets.
Lawyers and doctors are the ones most often subject to reimbursement alimony.