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Alimony vs Spousal Support: Learn the Difference

Alimony and spousal support are often viewed as interchangeable. The thought process is that you get the best lawyer for divorce in San Antonio, Texas, and you get spousal support or alimony, but not both. The reality is alimony and spousal support aren’t different, although they are different legal terms. Here is a tutorial on both.

Legally Interchangeable

Most courts will use one or the other, not both, but the term chosen is up to the preferences of the court. Legally, both are used to define maintenance payments made by one spouse to another after a marriage has ended in divorce. Depending on the setting and circumstances, the best divorce attorney will use the terms as is appropriate. 


Alimony is an archaic legal term that refers to “a husband’s or wife’s provision for a spouse after a separation or a divorce.” Alimony comes from the Latin word alimonia, which means nutriment. It is believed to have been first used in the 17th century in England. It is legally considered to be a maintenance payment that the best divorce lawyer can maximize in potential.

Spousal Support

This term is the new way of saying “alimony.” It is gender neutral and only defines payments as happening between one spouse and another, or between ex-spouses if the divorce is not yet finalized. It was adopted in large part because marriage is now much more complicated than it was 200 years ago, even for the best family divorce lawyer available.

The Switch

The first evidence of a switch in terms came from the state of California. It was adopted to make divorce less confrontational. It has since spread nationwide and is becoming the “go-to” term and for a number of types of maintenance payments due to a relationship breaking down. It was more than just an effort to be politically correct, however.

Spousal support holds far less negative connotations than alimony. As cohabitation, marriage, and divorce laws in the US changed, the need to shift from one word to the other became necessary. If for no other reason, spousal support applies to a number of different types of relationships, so moving to that term across the board streamlined forms and processes. 

Those Perceptions

Right or wrong (largely wrong), it is perceived by some that alimony is prejudicial. A popular belief is that alimony almost always ends up with men paying women after the divorce is official. The reality is that men are receiving alimony in more and more situations. This has changed as female “breadwinners” have become more common.

One Area Of Agreement

One aspect of alimony in which almost everyone agrees is that permanent alimony is wrong. Permanent alimony requires a maintenance payment until the ex-spouse dies. Men and women all agree that this type of arrangement is overbearing. A number of states have adopted legislation to address this issue.

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