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How is Alimony Different from Separate Support?

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Separate support is a term that we use to describe all types of monetary support mandated by the court.  This could include, alimony, child support, payment of medical expenses, payment of household bills, and more.  Alimony on the other hand, is one very specific type of separate support meant to support a spouse.  Even with alimony, there are many different sub-types meant for different purposes such as general term alimony, rehabilitative alimony, reimbursement alimony, etc.

In Probate and Family Court, if you want support from an existing spouse, you can do one of two things: (1) you can file for a divorce and ask for alimony, child support, etc or (2) you can file for Separate Support.  Filing for Separate Support instead of a divorce is different in that at the end of the Separate Support filing process, you are not granted a divorce.  You and your spouse are still married.  They are simply mandated to pay support.  This type of Separate Support filing is often used by people who haven’t decided on a divorce yet but need a court order to enforce a support claim or its used by people who have a religious objection to divorce but still need the support.

It is important to note that Massachusetts does not have “Legal Separation.”  Here in Massachusetts, you are either married or you’re divorced.  By filing and getting a Separate Support order, does not mean you’re “legally separated.”  Legal separation has a separate meaning in other states but Massachusetts does not offer that option.

If you think you might need a separate support order, speak with an attorney about the process.


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