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What's the history of alimony?

Historically speaking, alimony referred to a divorced husband's responsibility to provide support or sustenance to his ex-wife. Alimony used to be a responsibility reserved just for husbands, and a common law right of wives. These days, it doesn't matter what sex you happen to be; you might still need to pay alimony after a divorce or separation.

Alimony law harks back to ecclesiastical courts in England, during the days when divorce wasn't possible. The only arrangement spouses could have was a legal separation. They took "until death do us part" seriously those days. Even though the spouses were separated, though, the husband was required to pay alimony and thereby fulfill his legal obligation to support his spouse. When the settlers and colonists made their way over to the New World, they brought their concept of alimony (and a lot more laws) with them.

In the old days of America, divorce was fault-based. In other words, if a marriage needed to be dissolved, it had to be someone's fault. There was no concept that two people might simply be incompatible. Did the husband cheat? Did the wife cheat? Was there unlawful activity committed by one of the spouses? The court would ultimately assign fault to one of the spouses and if the marriage ended because of something the husband did, then the wife could most definitely get alimony.

Just like today in Florida, alimony could be permanent or it could be temporary. Temporary alimony was meant to help the spouse with less money get settled financially, and have a means of financial support other than her husband -- like a job -- before the financial support was totally cut off. Permanent alimony was meant to support the ex-wife until either she or the husband passed away.

The biggest question when it comes to alimony is: "How much can I get?" or "How much can s/he get?" When evaluating the potential for alimony in a particular Florida case, spouses may want to discuss the matter with a highly experienced alimony lawyer.

Source: nationalparalegal.edu, "The Historical Background of Alimony," accessed Feb. 12, 2016

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