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Is alimony a thing of the past?

Alimony -- also called spousal maintenance or spousal support -- involves a higher-earning spouse making payments to a lesser-earning spouse after a divorce on a temporary or permanent basis.

One of the first questions that many people have at the beginning of the divorce process is whether alimony will apply in their case. What most people don't realize is that alimony is getting less and less common in Mississippi and most other states.

As the times have changed, so has alimony

Alimony laws in the United States are based on English Common Law. Back then, women gave up their property rights when they were married, and if the marriage ended, the husband was permitted to keep the wife's property in exchange for supporting the wife financially through alimony.

Obviously, things have changed a lot since then and now marital property is divided equitably between the two spouses during a divorce. In past decades, alimony was used to allow a lesser-earning spouse to retain the marital standard of living after a divorce, but today it is less common.

Instead, marital property is typically divided in a way that "levels the playing field" between the two spouses, so alimony is not needed.

Though rare, spouses can still be awarded alimony

Even though alimony is a lot less common in Mississippi than it once was, it is still ordered in some divorce cases. The Mississippi Supreme Court established factors that judges must consider when awarding alimony in the case of Armstrong v. Armstrong.

The factors, which determine the type and amount of alimony that should be awarded, include:

  • The income and expenses of each party;
  • The health and earning capacity of each party;
  • The financial need of each party;
  • The obligations and assets of each party;
  • The length of the marriage;
  • Child care considerations;
  • The age of each party;
  • The standard of living of the parties, both during the marriage and currently;
  • The tax consequences of the spousal support order;
  • Fault or misconduct;
  • Wasteful dissipation of assets by either party; or
  • Any other factor deemed by the court to be "just and equitable" in connection with the setting of spousal support.

There are three different kinds of alimony that can be ordered:

  • Lump sum, which is a one-time payment
  • Rehabilitative, which takes place for a set period of time and can be modified if the rehabilitation targets are met
  • Periodic, which involves periodic payments for a specified length of time

Ultimately, because most modern marriages involve two incomes, and fewer women are financially-dependent on their husbands, alimony is awarded much less frequently than it once was.

An experienced attorney can provide you with personalized advice on whether it could apply in your case.

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