Alimony vs. Spousal Support

Attorneys working on alimony for family

There are several types of payments that one spouse can make to another either during a dissolution of marriage proceeding or after a divorce is finalized. These payments can all have a very different purpose, which means that you may end up paying (or receiving) several payments from your former spouse after a divorce.

With so many terms, it easy to get confused about what these payments are for and how they work. In this article, we will explain the differences between alimony, spousal support, and child support and how to determine which will apply to you.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony is a monetary payment from one spouse to another, either during or after a divorce. Although this is a relatively common term associated with divorce, the State of Florida no longer uses the term “alimony”, but rather uses “spousal support,” which is a much more modernized version of alimony.

Traditionally, alimony was used in English courts when divorce was not allowed. Instead, the couple had to separate homes, but the husband would have to continue to support his wife even after the separation. This type of payment was made regardless of the wife’s financial situation as most women did not have an income source outside of her relationship with her husband.

What Is Spousal Support?

Spousal support, like alimony, is a payment from one spouse to another that occurs during or after the divorce. The difference between alimony and spousal support is that it is not automatic, and it is much more limited today than it ever has been.

For example, spousal support is not always only granted to wives. In fact, according to a survey published in 2018, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported that 54 percent of attorneys surveyed saw an increase in the number of women paying spousal support to their former husbands.

The purpose of spousal support is to help the lower-earning spouse adjust to life as a single person. Spousal support is often paid for a short time while the other spouse makes this transition. However, the State of Florida also has permanent spousal support, which may be appropriate in situations where one spouse cannot work or will never be able to reach the income level that he or she was accustomed to during the marriage.

Determining the Amount of Spousal Support

Spousal support is heavily based on the couple’s relative income. If one spouse did not work outside the home, for example, he or she would be more likely to receive spousal support, even if it is just for a short time, after the divorce.

The Florida Court also takes the property division awards between the couple into account when determining whether or not spousal support is appropriate. For example, if one spouse was granted the majority of marital assets in the divorce, then he or she likely won’t receive ongoing spousal support payments in addition to the assets.

What Is Child Support?

Child support is a completely separate payment that one parent may pay to the other to help support their child(ren). In most circumstances, child support is granted to the custodial parent (the parent who has physical custody of the children).

Like spousal support, child support is based on the relative income of the couple. However, it is specifically focused on ensuring that the child’s basic needs are met. The payment is made to the custodial parent, however, the money should be used to maintain the household for the child and address things like healthcare, education, and other care-related expenses.

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