Difference Between Alimony and Spousal Support

Main Difference – Alimony vs Spousal Support

The two terms alimony and spousal support are two terms that are used interchangeably to refer to a payment made by one spouse to another after a divorce. There is no difference between alimony and spousal support in terms of their meaning; however, there is a difference between them in their usage. The term spousal support is mainly used in Canada, and the USA whereas alimony is a more commonly used word in many places over the country.

This article explains,

1. What is Alimony?
     – Meaning, Characteristics, Usage, and Origin

2. What is Spousal Support?
     – Meaning, Usage, and Origin

3. What is the difference between Alimony and Spousal Support?Difference Between Alimony and Spousal Support- Comparison Summary

Alimony – Definition, Meaning and Facts

When a couple gets divorced, some courts will rule that one spouse is financially responsible for the other. Alimony refers to this payment made by one spouse to another in a divorce. Alimony is also known as spousal support and spousal maintenance in different countries. When comparing these two terms alimony and spousal support, alimony is the older of the two terms and it has been used in a legal sense for a long time.

West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, (edition 2) defines alimony as “payment that a family court may order one person in a couple to make to the other person when that couple separates or divorces”

According to the laws concerning alimony, it is the spouse who is financially stronger that should make support payments. These payments should be made according to the time frames set by the court during divorce proceedings. In most cases, it is the husband who pays alimony to the wife, but there are cases where the wife has to make payments to the husbands. The main purpose of alimony is to prevent unfair economic consequences of a divorce after the division of properties and appointment of child welfare.

Alimony can be modified or stopped depending on the financial status of the spouses. This is done in instances like illness, retirement, or loss of income which affects the payer’s ability to make the payment. A rise in the recipient income can also result in a modification of alimony. Non-payment of alimony is punishable by law in some legal systems.

Difference Between Alimony and Spousal Support

Spousal Support – Definition, Meaning and Facts

Spousal support is another name for alimony. This term is mostly used in Canada and the U.S. In Australia, spousal support is known as spousal maintenance. Spousal support is a relatively new term when compared to alimony. In addition, this term is considered to be gender neutral since it has the gender-neutral term spouse. Thus, it may help to clarify the gender neutrality of the concept, i.e., spousal support or alimony doesn’t refer to a husband making payments to the wife; it refers to a spouse who is financially stronger making payments to the other spouse.

Difference Between Alimony and Spousal Support

Both alimony and spousal support payment that one person in a couple to make to the other person when that couple separates or divorce. The difference between alimony and spousal support lies in its usage and origins.


Alimony is the most commonly used term in many countries.

Spousal Support is mainly used in the US and Canada.


Alimony is the older term of the two.

Spousal Support was coined much later, to imply gender neutrality.

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About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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