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Resource for Alimony research, questions, and advice during a most difficult time in your life.

Alimony is a financial payment to a spouse after a divorce or separation has occurred in a marriage or during the time the separation or divorce is pending. Alimony payments are based on the legal premise that both partners in  a marriage have a duty to support each other equally. The obligation to support can continue long after separation or divorce is final. It is the view of the courts that both spouses owe each other the same support, and therefore either spouse may be ordered to pay alimony.

The first records of alimony date back to ancient Mesopotamia, when men wishing to divorce their wives were required to make a cash payment to the woman's family in order to keep the peace in the neighborhood. Things had not changed all that much by the first half of the 20th century when it was still assumed that most women were financially dependant on men and that men earned far more money over the course of a lifetime. As a result, it was not uncommon for alimony payments to last until the death or remarriage of a spouse.

Since passage of the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act in 1970, alimony in the United States has been considered more of a temporary resource to help spouses on their way to regaining economic independence. Today, the court will examine both spouse's incomes and ability to pay alimony before making any recommendations on the source, amount and duration of the payments.

Although alimony, or spousal support, is often confused with child support, they are not the same thing. Child support is when a parent is required to contribute to the ongoing care and support of a child through payment to the child's other parent. Alimony provides financial assistance beyond child support payments and is treated as taxable income in the United States. Child support is not taxable and the payments are easily calculated using established state guidelines in most cases. Alimony payment amounts are more complicated and are calculated in conjunction with a judge's consideration of existing factors in the marriage and family.

The penalties for failure to pay alimony vary in individual states because there is no federal legal statute covering alimony for the entire nation. In some state jurisdictions failure to pay alimony results only in a standard debt collections procedure. In other states, failure to pay can lead to loss of driver's licenses, contempt of court charges, and ultimately jail time.