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Alimony: A quick history lesson on why it exists

Spouses who are forced to pay alimony, and spouses who have the right to receive alimony tend to view the fairness of alimony in a very different light. This is natural. In a lot of marriages, the spouses don't part on good terms, and the last thing the so-called "moneyed" spouse wants to do is send a check to his or her ex on a monthly basis.

All this aside, there is a sound historical basis for why alimony exists and why it continues to be relevant today.

A quick history of alimony

As most readers of this blog know, only men had property rights in the past. It was also rare for women to secure high-paying jobs. As such, the wife of an affluent man would likely be destitute and unable to pay for her and her children's needs following a divorce.

In situations where the woman did not cause the divorce, however, the woman could receive alimony from her ex. Courts would evaluate the size of the marital estate before the divorce, and base the alimony payments off that. In the past, women never got fair shake financially, but alimony was a solution that introduced a semblance of "fairness" to the divorce process for women.

Why alimony is important now

In the modern world, men and women benefit from equal property rights in their divorces. However, there still exists the problem of the less-moneyed spouse being financially destitute after the breakup. This financial pressure could result in one spouse controlling the other spouse. In other words, the less-moneyed spouse might feel inclined to stay in a bad, abusive or toxic marriage for purely financial reasons.

Alimony solves this problem by providing a financial bridge so the less-moneyed spouse can end his or her marriage without fear of becoming financially destitute. In most cases, alimony payments are temporary and meant to assist the less-moneyed spouse in getting the education or training required to become financially independent.

Get help with your alimony concerns

Whether you're likely to pay or receive alimony, family law courts will seek to treat you fairly under the law. However, you may need legal assistance from a qualified divorce attorney to protect your legal rights in an alimony-related dispute.