Alimony: An allowance paid by one spouse to another based on the order of court for maintenance of the other spouse while they are separated.


5/25/20222 min read


Alimony is a popular term in divorce law. It means compensation owed by one spouse to the other for financial support after divorce. The Black's Law Dictionary defines alimony as “an allowance paid by one spouse to another by order of court for maintenance of the other spouse while they are separated, during divorce proceeding or after they are divorced”. The purpose of alimony is the support of a spouse and not the punishment of the other.

The term ‘alimony’ is coined from the Latin word ‘alimonia’, and has its basic meaning as sustenance. According to Steemit, it is derived from the right of a wife to material support of the husband in common law. Basically, it was payable only to a wife. It is necessary to note that alimony is awarded only at the discretion of the court, and when a particular case meets certain requirement.

Alimony has a long history in family law. The obligations of alimony were initially imposed by the Egyptians, Hebrews and Greeks. This practice aided the avoidance of feuds with the relatives of the divorced wife. Under Justinian I, Roman law insisted a forfeiture of gold from the guilty spouse in a divorce. Also, a Mesopotamian husband who wanted to divorce his wife with no cause had to forgo a piece of silver under the Hammurabi Code [1]. The medieval Church in England believed that divorce could not terminate the obligations of marriage in the eyes of God, it could be the reason alimony was simply a creation of statute. In addition, Scandinavian countries treat husband and wife as equals in divorce lawsuits [2].

Alimony was awarded in exceptional cases of marital misconduct until the 20th century, and this was for the reason that existing laws required evidence of wrongdoing by any of the party. The introduction of no-fault divorces, nonetheless, modified the procedures of awarding alimony. No-fault divorces mean divorces in which the party that files for divorce is not required to provide proof of wrongdoing of the other party. Beforehand, the award of alimony could only be to a woman in the case of the husband’s misconduct. However, that is no longer the case in contemporary times. The accelerated liberation and emancipation of women in the 20th century fostered the courts to remove gender bias in their rulings [3].

Factors in Awarding Alimony

In current times, the courts consider various factors in awarding alimony. Some of the factors include the following:

i. Income of each spouse
ii. Potential future income of each spouse

iii. Spouses’ standard of living during the marriage

iv. Length of marriage

v. Age of each spouse at the time of divorce

vi. Mental and physical health conditions of each party

vii. Presence of fault or marital misbehavior that triggered the divorce

[1] Britannica. Code of Hammurabi.

[2] Britannica. Alimony. [3] Ibid

NB: This article is not a legal advice, and under no circumstance should you take it as such. All information provided are for general purpose only. For information, please contact



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