What is the legal reason for alimony?

I understand that after separation things are usually split down the middle more or less, with lawyers on either side hashing out the particulars. I also realize that if children are involved and the mother retains main custody, the father’s financial responsability for the child should nto just go away.

But what I’m wondering about is why and when does alimony come to play?

Alimony sounds extremely unfair unless the mother has no job, and is unskilled or uneducated due to perhaps to being a stay at home mom taking care of kids and home.

But I have seen many situations where the woman is financially stable, well educated, and well off after the savings, house, etc are split, and yet the guy STILL has to pay alimony. Why on earth? What is the logic behind this?

Also, are there cases where the ex-wife has to pay alimony to the ex-husband?

Breach and policy reasons.

I don’t understand, can you elaborate :wink:

Do you mean it is only involved in prenup cases where one party violates the agreement?

Breach of the marriage. Remember the agreement was until death.


Ahhhh, really? So you can actually penalize the other party for breaking off the marriage?

But in that case both women and men should have to pay alimony depending on who wants the divorce, right?

But that doesn’t seem to make sense to me. Either a lot more men decide to break off marriages, or something else is up. Also what about cases where they both agree to get a divorce? Does alimony come into play here as well?

This has been allowed in Texas for a few years now, although I’m not personally aware of any specific cases where the woman was ordered to pay the man.

Certainly alimony can also be lifted once the ex-wife has remarried or otherwise improves her circumstances.

I believe traditionally the (unstated) reason for alimony was that women might not be able to go into the workplace as easily after a divorce. It wasn’t so much a breach-of-contract issue as a pragmatic way of providing for these women. Alimony was not supposed to punitive per se, although it did seem that way for many men and has been done away with in many states.

Hopefully someone will come along to give you some more detailed answers to your other queries. Kel Varson has been a bit, um, concise.


No, but both men and women can and do pay.

Alimony is not a penalty.

I thought alimony was another word for child-support payments. Am I wrong–no mutual child need be involved?

Alimony is paid to the spouse. Child support, while in the care of the spouse, is for the children.

So it’s an ex-spouse-support payment.

Hmm. Okay.

Think about it this way:

Two people get married. They want to have one person stay home and raise a family (traditionally female), while the other works. Regardless of tradition, tne person may have a better job, so the other one quits and raises the kids.

Fast forward a few, or a lot of years:

The marriage breaks up. The person who kept the job is financially independent and able to take care of themselves well at, or above, the standard of living held in the marriage. The other one cannot because of loss of marketability, job skills, and so on. Because the person working benefited from the other person not working (not having to get independent child care, having someone to help and assist them in their career or day to day life), that person pays the other person to help compensate for the loss of the level of employability that they suffer. It’s to make things even after the marriage contract has ended.

Typically, it lasts only a few years.

However let’s look at a nother similar scenario that doesn’t mesh so well:

A couple get married and after a few years decide to have children. The man tells the woman that due to their financial situation things would be a lot better if she worked after the kids were born. She refuses dispite the hit their income will take. They work things out scrimping and saving and all that and make due.

One day, they get divorced, only the judge says “well since your wife stayed home you now owe her alimony”.

However it wasn’t the couple’s decision. It was the wife’s decision.

However, regardless of whos decision it was, the husband still benefited from having his wife stay home - free child care, free house keeper, free cook, etc.

So you can actually penalize the other party for breaking off the marriage?

It sure feels like a penalty. I do know for a fact that if the woman breaks off the marriage she can still collect alimony. In no-fault states such as California the courts don’t care of the circumstances of the divorce, except for physical spousal abuse. So, if a woman is being unfaithful, divorces her husband, she can still collect alimony and gets half of all the assets.