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Alimony is court-ordered payment or series of payments from one former spouse to another following a divorce. Typically, the spouse with the higher income or stronger ability to generate a higher income job is required to support the other. The theory is that both spouses contributed to one spouse’s ability to work at the higher paying job or build a skill set or business. Thus, justice and practical need requires that the higher income spouse assist the other.

Alimony is less likely to be awarded after short marriages. It is also generally considered unnecessary if the spouses earn similar salaries. Note that alimony is separate from child support, as either can be awarded without the other.

Alimony is for limited duration. It is typically set to expire after a given number of years. It also typically expires when the recipient spouse remarries or can be terminated when the recipient spouse is able to earn enough income or fails to make reasonable efforts to do so. Alimony amounts can also be modified upon application.

Historically, alimony was only awarded between former spouses. Today, courts may also award alimony-like payments between non-married couples who lived together for years and break up. This arrangement, sometimes called “palimony” may be applied under contract or “unjust enrichment” theories even when not provided for by state law.