Types of Alimony
Key Points
  • There are generally 5 types of alimony: Temporary Alimony, Rehabilitative Alimony, Permanent Alimony, Reimbursement Alimony, and Lump-Sum Alimony.
  • Rehabilitative Alimony is very common and is paid to a spouse for a period of time until he or she is able to get back into the workplace.
  • Reimbursement Alimony is often a surprise to those that helped their spouse get through schooling. For example one spouse worked while the other attended medical school to become a doctor. The court recognize there should be compensation for this type of arrangement that often exists.

In general alimony is one of five types. They are:

  • Temporary Alimony: Support ordered when the parties are separated prior to divorce. Also called alimony pendente lite, which is Latin meaning "pending the suit."

    A stay-at-home mother with few marketable work skills, for example, may ask for temporary alimony because she lacks the skills to enter the workplace during the divorce. She may need money simply to continue the divorce action.
  • Rehabilitative Alimony: Support given to a lesser earning spouse for a period of time necessary to acquire work outside the home and become self-sufficient.

    The court uses rehabilitative alimony given for a fixed period of time, after which it is subject to review. Courts consider rehabilitative alimony when a divorcing spouse seeks to further an education or receive training so he or she may support himself or herself after a divorce. Rehabilitative alimony is sometimes paired with another type of alimony, and usually ends when a spouse obtains employment at their full potential.
  • Permanent Alimony: Support paid to the lesser earning spouse until the death of the payor, the death of the recipient, or the remarriage of the recipient.

    Courts consider permanent alimony when the marriage is of long duration (usually 10 years or more) and one spouse (usually the woman) has little hope of entering the workforce. Substantial changes in income or expenses by either the payor or the recipient may be grounds for reducing or increasing alimony unless an agreement between the parties says otherwise.
  • Reimbursement Alimony: Support given as a reimbursement for expenses incurred by a spouse during the marriage (like educational expenses).

    A textbook example of this happens when the nurse marries a medical student and supports them both while the medical student finishes school or a residency program, and then they divorce. The nurse probably would be entitled to reimbursement alimony to compensate her for supporting them during the training program if they divorce soon after medical training.

    Although most states would not consider the medical degree "property," the nurse may be entitled to monetary reimbursement. In this case, reimbursement alimony is not necessarily being given because the nurse needs funds for day-to-day support. Instead, the alimony is given as an equitable payback for supporting the spouse through medical school. Alternatively, a court could choose to give the supporting spouse a substantial majority of marital property. But in many cases in which one spouse has just completed a training program, the couple has not accumulated a large amount of marital assets. So, reimbursement alimony is given as an alternative. Reimbursement alimony can be paid over a period of time.

    Like rehabilitative alimony, reimbursement alimony is often awarded in addition to another type of alimony. Reimbursement alimony pays back the dependent spouse for "lost" employment opportunities or personal/professional goals sacrificed for the benefit the other spouse and the marriage.
  • Lump-Sum Alimony: Sometimes called 'alimony in gross', lump-sum alimony refers to alimony that is a fixed payment.

    Lump-sum alimony is simply paying the alimony amount agreed to all at once, which is sometimes an attractive option as it reduces the continuous financial dependence on the former partner.

    Lump sum is paid regardless of circumstances that would be a basis for termination of other types of alimony, such as remarriage. It can be paid to the estate of the recipient in the event the recipient dies. Lump sum alimony can be used in lieu of a property settlement and can provide a tax advantage to the payor. It works as a type of reimbursement alimony to ensure that one spouse is paid back for certain expenditures, even if the recipient remarries, cohabits with someone, or does not otherwise need the money for day-to-day support.

Suggested Reading
The Spousal Support Handbook The Spousal Support Handbook
Spousal support is one of many issues that is often difficult for spouses to agree upon. Before negotiating and even signing an agreement regarding spousal support it is very important that you understand your rights and the repercussions of any actions taken.

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CALCULATION OF ALIMONY – In most jurisdictions, judges exercise broad discretion in awarding alimony, its amount and duration. The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, on which many states' spousal support statutes are based, recommends that courts consider the following factors in making decisions about alimony awards: the age, physical condition, emotional state, and financial condition of the former spouse; the length of time the recipient needs education or training to become self-sufficient; the couple's standard of living; the length of the marriage; and the ability of the payor spouse to support the recipient and support himself or herself.
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