Alimony vs. Spousal Support: Understanding what are the Difference


Legally, there is no difference between alimony and spousal support. The terms are synonymous and are frequently used as substitutes for each other, and both alimony and spousal support are financial obligations that one spouse might have to the other after separation or divorce.

Alimony & Spousal Support Can Have Different Connotations

Whether you use the term alimony or spousal support, you may still face judgment for relying on your ex-spouse financially, while payers often express resentment about their obligation. However, the term spousal support can carry less historical weight.

Historically, alimony is the more commonly used term and can be fraught with gendered assumptions. A common assumption is that women are always the recipients of alimony, while men are typically cast in the role of the payer. This stereotype stems from outdated notions of gender roles, where men were seen as the primary breadwinners and women as financially dependent on their spouses.

However, this is far from the reality in today's world. With more women participating in the workforce than ever before and many out-earning their spouses, the dynamics of alimony have changed significantly. It's not uncommon for women to be ordered to pay alimony to their ex-husbands.

It is crucial to underscore that, from a legal perspective, alimony does not discriminate on the basis of gender. Its primary purpose is to mitigate any undue economic consequences that one spouse may encounter due to the dissolution of the marriage, thereby striving to uphold a standard of living for both parties akin to what was experienced during the matrimonial union.

As such, alimony can impact different individuals in various ways, regardless of their gender. Understanding these facts can help dispel the prevailing stereotypes and assumptions about alimony.

Alimony and spousal support carry both financial and emotional weight. Financially, they can create significant pressure on both parties. Emotionally, they can stir up feelings of resentment, dependency, and entitlement. Yet, they serve as essential tools in the legal landscape to ensure economic fairness following a divorce.

Who Can Request Alimony/Spousal Support in California?

In California, either spouse can request alimony if they need it. There are multiple types of alimony available to spouses. They include:

  • Temporary alimony is granted during the divorce proceedings and is intended to maintain the status quo until the divorce is finalized. The amount is typically calculated using a formula based on each spouse's income and certain allowable deductions. The duration of temporary alimony is usually until the final divorce judgment or the agreement of a different arrangement.
  • Rehabilitative alimony is awarded to a spouse who needs financial assistance while acquiring education or training to become self-sufficient. The duration is typically set for the estimated time it will take the recipient to complete their education or training. Judges consider factors such as the recipient's age, health, skill set, employment prospects, and the anticipated time for gaining sufficient employment.
  • Permanent alimony is awarded to help the lower-earning spouse maintain a standard of living close to what was enjoyed during the marriage. While referred to as 'permanent,' this does not necessarily mean lifelong. Factors considered when determining the length of permanent alimony include the length of the marriage, the standard of living established during the marriage, and the needs and financial capabilities of each spouse.
  • Reimbursement alimony is less common and is awarded to compensate a spouse who contributed to the education or career advancement of the other spouse during the marriage. The amount is usually based on the contributing spouse's financial contribution towards the other's education or career advancement.

The court also retains jurisdiction to modify or terminate an alimony order if there is a change in circumstances. A change in circumstance that can warrant a modification of alimony could mean a significant increase in the recipient's income, retirement of the paying spouse, or other changes in either party’s financial circumstances or needs.

Have Questions About Alimony? Talk with Our Attorneys.

If you are getting divorced, Family Law Advocacy Group can offer you personalized, sound counsel throughout the process. Our attorneys are knowledgeable and experienced and can help you understand your rights and obligations in your divorce and alimony case based on your unique circumstances.

Contact our firm to request a consultation by calling (909) 992-0188.

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