What is Alimony?

Alimony is a fairly old concept designed to make divorce settlements more equitable by protecting the standard-of-living of the lower-earning or non-earning spouse. It takes the form of court-ordered payments from the wealthier or wage-earning spouse to the other spouse. The amount of the payments depends on several factors, including income and living expenses, among others.

Though the doctrine of alimony makes no explicit distinction between the sexes, in practice it has largely been awarded from husbands to wives, simply due to the imbalance between the number of working men and working women. However, because of modern trends towards women in the workforce, more and more husbands are claiming alimony from their divorced wives than ever before. This resulted in a controversy over the allegedly gender-biased word “alimony” and gave rise to the terms “spousal support” and “spousal maintenance.” The meaning of these different terms is identical; their adoption is a reflection of efforts to create a gender-neutral way to refer to alimony.

Like child support, alimony often becomes a hotly contested topic in many divorces, for several reasons. First of all, alimony laws in many states tend to be rather vague and leave decisions mostly up to the discretion of the courts. This has led to vastly different judgments in different courtrooms and complaints from many professionals in the legal industry.

Another issue is the perception of alimony as unfair and unjustified. This dispute typically pits women’s rights advocates against men’s advocacy groups – a throwback to the original tendency of husband-to-wife alimony payments. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that so many types of alimony judgments can be awarded, from those given only on a rehabilitative basis (until the receiving spouse is self-sufficient or remarries, for example) to those awarded for basically a lifetime. Opponents of alimony view it as nothing more than a benefit to “gold-diggers” and free riders.

Are you going through a divorce? Do you need experienced legal counsel? If so, call 760-722-7646 today to speak with a San Diego divorce attorney from Fischer & Van Thiel about your case.

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