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It’s Splitsville: Surviving Your Divorce by James J. Gross

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CHAPTER  11

Alimony

The word alimony is derived from the Latin verb alere, which means “to nourish.” The noun form is alimonia, which means nourishment or sustenance. Traditionally, it was a duty of support owed by a husband to a wife in addition to child support.

Historically, divorce was only possible when there was marital misconduct or fault involved. If the fault was the husband’s, the wife was awarded alimony on the theory that the marriage and her support would have continued if the husband had not been at fault. Conversely, if the wife was at fault, she would receive no alimony.

When states began adopting no-fault divorce, alimony changed as well. Rather than alimony being a right, its purpose changed to helping a dependent spouse become ...

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