When couples divorce, one or both spouses may ask the court to award alimony, also known as spousal support and maintenance. The court looks at a variety of factors when determining whether alimony should be granted, in what amount and how long it should last. However, courts are prohibited from awarding alimony based on gender or excluding a spouse from receiving it for the same reason.
Gender-Based Alimony is a Myth
When spouses divorce, alimony is sometimes awarded to one spouse. In the past, alimony was typically reserved for wives. This was because the traditional family structure consisted of the wife staying home to care for the household while the husband worked and paid the bills. However, this began to change in the 1970s, and alimony law was made gender-neutral in all states. As a result, courts can no longer take a spouse's gender into consideration when awarding alimony. So, either spouse may be required to pay it.
Even though gender is not considered, state courts evaluate other factors when making alimony decisions, some of which are codified in state laws. Common factors include the duration of the marriage, standard of living established during the marriage, age of spouses and their emotional and physical health, contributions each spouse made to the marriage including income, education and employability of each spouse, and whether one spouse serves as a child's primary caretaker. In many states, alimony may be temporary during the divorce proceedings, short-term to help a spouse adjust to single life, long-term or permanent.