Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)

Spousal maintenance is a term that means the same as the more commonly used term, alimony. Spousal maintenance refers to the money that is paid by one spouse to the other as part of the divorce decree. The payment is designed to be a safety net for a spouse who cannot provide for his or her needs or who meets other requirements under law. The idea behind Spousal maintenance is that the accomplishments of the spouses during the marriage, including increases in earning potential and living standards, are shared and earned by BOTH spouses, not just the spouse who gets a paycheck or has a job.

Spousal maintenance is paid separately from child support and is not a substitute for or a supplement to child support payments.

When and How Spousal Maintenance is Ordered

When spousal maintenance is ordered, the judge will consider the length of the marriage, the age and earning ability of the spouse who is asking for maintenance, the standard of living the parties enjoyed during the marriage, the ability of the other spouse to pay, and what the person who is asking for the maintenance contributed to the marriage.

Community property can be a very technical subject. If you own a home or property that is worth a significant amount of money, or if you or your spouse or your employers contributed to a pension or retirement plan while you were married, you might want to ask a lawyer for help before you file for or respond to a divorce petition.

The amount of a spousal maintenance payments is determined by what the judge considers to be a reasonable deduction from the monthly income of the paying spouse and a reasonable monthly payment to the receiving spouse. Not every divorce case involves spousal maintenance. You might want to talk to a lawyer about whether you have good legal reasons to request Spousal maintenance before you file a petition for divorce.

Paying Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance payments may be ordered to be made through an Income Withholding Order from the paying spouse's paycheck. This means that the court's order directs the employer of the spouse to deduct the amount of spousal maintenance directly from the paycheck, and then the employer sends this money to the Clerk of the Superior Court. The Clerk records the payment and sends the money to the spouse who is entitled to receive the spousal maintenance payment. Self-employed or unemployed spouses must make spousal maintenance payments directly to the Clerk of the Court too.


The files included within the Law Library Resource Center's website are copyrighted. Users have permission to use the files, forms, and information for any lawful purpose. The files and forms are not intended to be used to engage in the unauthorized practice of law. The Court assumes no responsibility and accepts no liability tor actions taken by the users of these documents, including reliance on their contents. All files are under continual revision. If you are not using these forms right away, or if you plan to use them repeatedly, we strongly recommend that you check the site regularly to determine whether the files you are using have been updated.

Paula Collins
Law Library Resource Center Administrator
Contact the Law Library Resource Center

  This page was last updated on: