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Divorce Support Basics

Alimony, also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, is a payment from one spouse to the other after divorce, and can include assets such as property (like the family home), money, stocks, or retirement plans. Alimony can be ordered to be paid in a lump sum or by installments.

The court generally considers many factors in awarding support, such as the duration of the marriage, and each spouse's:

  • Resources, including property, income, inheritances, and expenses
  • Occupations and earning capacities
  • Standard of living
  • Age

Spousal payment arrangements may be permanent, such as for older spouses who have never worked and have little independent resources, or temporary or "rehabilitative" for spouses who might need an education or training to find a job and become self-supporting.


Palimony, like alimony, is a financial settlement between two people who once cohabitated for a significant time period but were not married. Palimony agreements are based on the idea that the couple had an implied, if not actual, contractual relationship and a duty to financially support each other. The court can choose whether to award or deny palimony based on:

  • An implied understanding or contract that one unmarried cohabitant would financially support the other
  • The duration of the relationship
  • Written financial agreements showing the parties' intent
  • One partner's career or other sacrifices to take care of the home or children

Unmarried cohabitants can protect themselves by writing palimony agreements early in the relationship. Such agreements function similarly to a prenuptial agreement and create an actual contract on which the parties can base claims for palimony.

Child Support

Child support is the financial support that one parent is required to pay another to meet the needs of the couple's children. Child support can be arranged via a legal agreement, or by court order. A non-custodial parent, or a parent with a higher income, is usually ordered to pay child support to the parent with primary custody of the child.

Depending on the state, parents may be required to pay child support until their children are legally adults, through their high school education, or longer if the child is not self-supporting. The amount of support a parent is required to pay is usually dependent on both parents' incomes and expenses and their children's needs, such as living expenses, education, and health.

Child support requirements and guidelines differ greatly from state to state, so it is important to check a state's particular requirements or consult with an attorney in your area.