There are a variety of reasons why spouses need to pay alimony. For one, it could be the law that you or your spouse must pay alimony in your divorce case — particularly if you’ve been married for an extended period of time and one spouse’s capacity to earn an income is particularly less than the other’s. Beyond the law, however, there’s an important logic behind alimony laws.
From a certain perspective, one might argue that no one should have to pay for the life and livelihood of another. We should all be personally responsible for ourselves and our financial well-being. As beautiful as this notion is, the reality is quite different. Imagine two spouses marry and one spouse is economically disadvantaged compared to the other spouse. By marrying the moneyed spouse, the lesser-moneyed spouse will increase his or financial security; he or she could even become financially dependent on the moneyed spouse and stop working altogether.
What happens when the marital relationship goes sour, but the moneyed spouse wants to keep the relationship? Without the possibility of alimony, the lesser-moneyed spouse could become trapped within the marriage for financial reasons. Alimony provides a way out for the financially disadvantaged spouse so that he or she can seek independence and liberation from a potentially toxic, abusive or unhappy marital situation.
Of course, this scenario doesn’t apply to all divorces in which alimony is a possibility — and it might not apply to yours. However, it exists in enough marital circumstances that alimony laws persist. In fact, what alimony serves to do is elevate a lesser-moneyed spouse to the status of an “equal” partner in marriage, as opposed to a “victim” of marriage.
If alimony is a concern in your divorce, whether you’re the “payer” or the “receiver,” make sure you fully understand your legal rights.