Alimony is financial support one spouse pays to the other after separation. An alimony award can be temporary or permanent, depending on the state, the duration of the marriage, and the economic situations of the respective spouses. The obligation to pay alimony generally does not end with the divorce judgment.
Courts have discretion to award alimony as part of a separation or divorce after taking into account relevant factors including the age, education and training of the spouses, their relative financial situations, and the duration of the marriage. If the marriage was relatively short, any alimony award is likely to be temporary, awarded for a set number of years to assist the lesser-earning spouse to establish herself in the work force.
Sometimes a divorce court awards permanent alimony, requiring one spouse to support the other financially for the rest of her life. State laws differ as to when this is appropriate. In states like California, courts have discretion to award spousal support for the indefinite future if the marriage lasted at least 10 years.