What is Rehabilitative Alimony?

Instructor: Kenneth Poortvliet

Kenneth has a JD, practiced law for over 10 years, and has taught criminal justice courses as a full-time instructor.

Once a marriage ends, either party can seek alimony from the other. In this lesson, we will look at the four types of alimony, discuss what makes rehabilitative alimony unique, and learn when it's awarded.

Billy left the courthouse after the judge just awarded his ex-wife, Carmen, alimony. She made more money than he did for years, but while she took time off to be with their two children, Billy was the primary wage-earner. However, when Carmen went back to work full time after the divorce, she began making roughly the same salary as Billy.

At the last hearing, the judge denied her alimony, saying that she made roughly the same as her ex-husband. However, a few months ago, Carmen hit a ceiling in her income potential and needed a PhD to continue in her career. Now the judge concludes that Billy needs to pay Carmen alimony. Does that seem right?


When recuperating, a spouse can get support called rehabilitative alimony.

Alimony is the legal obligation to make support payments to a spouse or former spouse. The court can award four types of alimony: temporary, permanent, reimbursement, and rehabilitative.

Before a court can award any alimony, it needs to designate the parties: a supported spouse (the spouse who is in need of support,) and a supporting spouse (the spouse whose financial contributions will support the other.) How the courts make their determinations varies some state to state, however, these are the most common:

  • Income during the marriage,
  • Standard of living during the marriage,
  • Whether one spouse supported the other during his/her education,
  • The length of the marriage,
  • After the divorce, the education or training needed by the supported spouse.

Temporary & Permanent Alimony

Temporary alimony can begin the moment a couple separates, and permanent alimony starts when the divorce is final.

Once a divorce is filed, most states have a waiting period until the divorce is finalized, which may be from 60 days to a year. During that time, the supported spouse can seek temporary alimony to meet his or her immediate needs. Once a permanent alimony order is entered, the temporary order will discontinue.

Both temporary or permanent alimony awards can modified or ended with the remarriage of the supported spouse, substantial change in finances for the supported or supporting spouse, or the death of either party.

Reimbursement Alimony

Reimbursement alimony repays one spouse for contributions made while the other was in school or starting a business. Reimbursement alimony looks at expectations of future growth based on the contributions of the other spouse. Once granted, this award can't be changed or ended, regardless of whether those expectations pan out.

Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony is support for a spouse during a period of rehabilitation, and is based on separate factors than traditional alimony. When a spouse needs funds to ''get back on their feet,'' the court can award rehabilitative alimony. This is based on the circumstances at the time of the divorce, and can be for any reason that requires either spouse to need rehabilitation, regardless of supported/supporting designation.

Rehabilitative alimony may be granted for several reasons including:

  • health, such as recovery from an injury or surgery,
  • the need for education or training due to loss of employment or business income,
  • a stall in career track or income potential

The court can order a set amount, a set time, or leave it open with an order to report back to the court after a designated period of time. Once the judge feels like the rehabilitation is over, the payments can end.

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