Historical basis for the payment of alimony

Alimony is a legal vehicle by which a person is required to pay money to his or her former spouse that may be used for financial support. Here in Massachusetts, a man can pay a woman support and vice versa, though historically men were the parties mandated to pay support to their former wives. This post looks at some of the historical basis on which modern alimony laws are created.

In an article written for the National Paralegals College, alimony payments were originally described as support mandated from ecclesiastical courts that did not permit couples to divorce. In such courts, a couple could only secure a separation, and, because the couple was still technically married, the husband was made to continue to financially support his spouse.

When divorce was later recognized by American courts, a party often had to prove that fault was the reason for the marriage’s failure. Thus, without proof of fault on the husband’s part it could be challenging for a wife to get support from her ex. It can be presumed based on this information that if a wife’s actions caused a couple to divorce that she generally would not expect to receive monetary support in the form of alimony from her soon-to-be ex-husband.

Modern spousal support takes on a different form and in Massachusetts calculations are run to determine if and how much financial support a person should receive from his or her former partner. Fault is one of the factors that a court may look at and it still can factor into the size of a spousal support award.

Individuals who are going through divorce may have questions about alimony and whether they will receive or will have to pay spousal support after their marriages are terminated. Such questions cannot be answered directly by the information contained in this post, which is only provided as a general overview of alimony in its historical context. For specific guidance on personal alimony issues, readers of this blog may choose to consult their own family law attorneys.

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