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Paying Alimony: The 5 Types of Alimony

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By Neetal Parekh on September 14, 2009 6:50 AM

Breaking up may be hard to do, but it is even harder if one side can't support itself after the separation or divorce. And that's where paying alimony comes in.

Alimony is payment made by one ex-spouse to another to help support them during divorce proceedings and afterward. It is usually ordered when the judge finds that the divorce caused unfair economic consequences for one ex-spouse.

Below are the 5 types of alimony that most state courts recognize:

1. Temporary Alimony (alimony pendente lite) - This is an ongoing payment that is made when a couple is separated or in divorce proceedings, but not yet divorced. It can also include payment for divorce costs, daily expenses, and continues until the court determines permanent alimony. 

2. Permanent Alimony - This is what most people typically think of when they refer to alimony. It is the amount awarded after the conclusion of divorce proceedings, paid on a regular, recurring basis.  Permanent alimony is usually due indefinitely, but is subject to change under certain circumstances such as remarriage or cohabitation.

3. Rehabilitative Alimony - In situations in which one ex-spouse is not self-sufficient, the judge may order payment of rehabilitative alimony to provide financial support while job-searching or receiving instruction to expanding employment skills. This is usually ordered for a fixed period of time.

4. Reimbursement Alimony- This type of alimony was intended to balance the scales on any support provided for higher education or work training by one ex-spouse. It requires a regular payment to reimburse the sponsoring ex-spouse the tuition costs paid, or a portion of those costs.

5. Lump-sum Alimony (alimony in gross) - If one ex-spouse does not want any property or items of value from the marriage, the judge may order a one-time lump-sum payment in lieu of the property.

What makes alimony calculations difficult to predict is the fact that each state court has its own method of determining the amounts. Some factors commonly employed in deciding how much alimony will be due and for how long include:

  • how long the couple was married
  • how long the couple was separated
  • the age of the ex-spouses
  • incomes of the ex-spouses
  • future financial potential of each party
  • gender of the party seeking alimony

If you're having trouble paying or collecting alimony, an experienced family law attorney may be able to help.

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