Alimony is a term that refers to the money or funds that provide maintenance and/or support to a spouse. It is a responsibility that is mandated by the court and follows a divorce ruling. This obligation is found in divorce law or family law and is present in many countries around the world. The legal responsibility is based on the notion that each spouse must be obligated to support the other during the marriage. This law also applies to civil unions or common-law marriages.
The history of alimony dates back to the English church courts. These courts made rulings awarding alimony in cases dealing with divorce or separation. It was known as Alimony Pendente Lite, and dictated that a husband had to support a wife during divorce proceedings. Post-divorce or permanent alimony referred to the idea that the marriage actually continued. Therefore, the husband had a requirement to continue to support the wife as these courts could only decree something akin to a legal separation today.
Alimony is not a right. It is something that can be requested, and, the amount will vary according to the circumstances related to the reason for the divorce. The court will make a decision based on the arguments presented by attorneys from both sides. The alimony decree can be modified at any time if circumstances change for either of the parties. For example, if the supported spouse remarries then alimony may no longer be a requirement. However, the courts do not like to modify these agreements unless there are compelling reasons to do so.