What’s the difference between alimony and palimony?

On Behalf of | Apr 1, 2020 | Divorce |

When a couple splits, the lifestyle they had together typically becomes difficult to maintain for one spouse. In a divorce or separation, couples look to find an outcome that leaves both parties without struggle. This could occur for a variety of reasons.

In some relationships, one person makes more than the other. This could leave the other spouse unable to keep up with the lifestyle they once had or even unable to fully pay bills on their own. Other couples decided early in their relationship that one spouse wouldn’t work. After a separation, this could become a problem because they have little to no work experience. It would be difficult for them to get a job and, therefore, have a place to live, pay bills and afford to eat.


Alimony occurs when a couple is getting a divorce. The court must decide if one spouse should pay the other monthly. They evaluate this decision through one spouse’s needs and the other spouse’s ability to pay. During this evaluation the court will look at:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The age of each spouse
  • The standard of living the couple had
  • The financial ability of each spouse
  • The earning capacity and employability of each spouse
  • The education of each spouse
  • The physical and mental wellbeing of each spouse
  • What each spouse contributed to their marriage

Through these aspects, the courts will determine if alimony is a necessary step. Judges only deem alimony necessary if it’s fair and appropriate for the couple.


Palimony is only a possibility if the couple was not legally married but lived together for many years as if they were. Certain states recognize the devotion of your life to another as a symbol of marriage, sometimes called common law marriage. In those states, the law believes that people of common law couples should get the same treatment as legally married couples.

However, in a state where common law marriage isn’t recognized, palimony will not be recognized. They will recognize a formal agreement that has previously been written by couples that includes financial support, but a judge does not make the decision like they would for alimony. For states, like Michigan, that recognize palimony, the same course of action for alimony is taken.

Whether you were married by law or by commitment, you spent years building a life with your partner. When that ends, it can be difficult to find your footing in the world. If your partner is the primary financial support, it’s difficult to find the money you need to support yourself.

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