Is There a Difference Between Alimony and Spousal Support?

Is There a Difference Between Alimony and Spousal Support

Alimony and spousal support have identical meanings and can be used when referring to payments by a spouse to the other after a divorce. These payments are reparation to their contributions at their former home. They help alleviate the financial woes of the dependant spouse following a divorce. While there is technically no difference between alimony and spousal support, there are some states that use the former term while others use the latter.

Alimony vs. Spousal support


Alimony is derived from the Latin word “alimonia”, which means provisions to assure that the basic needs and housing of the wife are met after a separation. In a way, alimony can be considered as a form of spousal support. At present, alimony is considered the older term and is phased out in most places. The term “spousal support” is now more widely used and preferred in legal environments, particularly for clarity purposes between jurisdictions that use different terms.

Spousal support

Payments for spousal support can be made from husband to wife and vice versa. The gender-neutral term “spouse” is used, which highlights how payments can come from either party. In general legal guidelines, the spouse with better financial capacity is the one who provides spousal support to the other, depending on the period of time and amount to be paid that is appointed by the court.

Kinds of Spousal Support

The type of spousal support or alimony that one receives is dependent on the spousal support laws governing your state as well as the financial situation of the marriage. Below are the four main kinds of spousal support:

1. Temporary alimony/spousal support

Also known as “pendente lite”, a temporary alimony is awarded to a spouse when separated and the divorce is not yet finalized. This payment is meant to help the spouse fund his or her lifestyle from the moment the separation takes place until the divorce is finalized. The alimony may also be stopped if the couple decides to reconcile.

2. Rehabilitative alimony/spousal support

This type of alimony is given to a spouse for a fixed time period and is primarily meant to help the lesser-earning spouse become self-sufficient. This may be used to get an education, job training or any other ways for the spouse to provide for himself or herself. The time period for paying rehabilitative alimony may be discussed among the partners or determined by the courts.

3. Permanent alimony/spousal support

This kind of alimony is granted to the lesser-earning spouse and is paid indefinitely, until the recipient decides to remarry or until either one of the spouses pass away. There are several valid reasons for a judge to demand this alimony to be paid. One possible situation may be that the alimony recipient got married and became a stay-at-home partner and raised children without having the chance to gain any job experience. Another possible situation would be that the recipient has some sort of handicap and is incapable of working to sustain his or her lifestyle. In such instances, the spouse is entitled to receive permanent alimony.

4. Reimbursement alimony/spousal support

This alimony type is meant to be a compensation for the costs a spouse has incurred throughout the marriage. A good example is if when a spouse helped pay for the other spouse’s medical school. The spouse is then eligible to receive reimbursement alimony in return for the money contributed to help the other partner achieve success. The payments for this alimony can be made either in lump sum or gradually over a certain time period.

Spousal Maintenance

In the state of Texas, the only payment obligation following a divorce is known as spousal maintenance. It is similar to rehabilitative alimony, wherein a certain amount is to be paid over a certain period of time. The main purpose of paying spousal maintenance is to help the lesser-earning spouse acquire employment and education, thereby enabling him or her to become self-supporting and financially independent. If a party involved in divorce proceedings meets the criteria outlined in the Texas Family Code, a judge can order for spousal maintenance.

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