Difference between Spousal Support, Alimony and Palimony

Difference between Spousal Support, Alimony and Palimony

With the change in time, the concept of marriage evolved, and live-in relationships are emerging in society. Couples prefer to cohabit rather than marry, which is referred to as a live-in relationship. During the marriage, a couple shares their financial responsibilities, which get disturbed if the couple wishes to divorce each other. As a result, the court awards alimony, which is the financial support given by a financially strong spouse to a financially weaker spouse to maintain the same standard of living as he or she had during the marriage. A couple in live-in relationships also shares their financial responsibilities, and separation affects them also. For such a couple, the court decided to award palimony to the financially weaker partner. Palimony is a legal term for alimony paid to unmarried spouses when they separate.


Alimony is a type of financial support given by one spouse to the other after a divorce, either as part of a settlement or as a consequence of a court order. While the primary goal of alimony is to alleviate any unfair economic effects that may develop as a result of a divorce, it is also used to enhance a partner’s financial condition, taking into consideration the situation before and after the divorce.

Types of Alimony

  • Rehabilitative Alimony This type of alimony is paid to the financially weaker spouse until he or she can find a way to support them. Rehabilitative alimony has no predetermined duration and is determined on a case-by-case basis. The basic goal is to keep the person afloat until he or she finds work and earns enough to sustain him or herself.
  • Lump-Sum Alimony This type of alimony mandates the payer spouse to pay the receiver spouse a one-time lump sum payment at the time of divorce. Once the payer spouse pays a lump sum amount, no more payments are required.
  • Reimbursement Alimony– When one spouse works to send the other spouse to college or any other program that will result in the spouse earning more money, this type of alimony is granted. The goal is to reimburse the spouse for the money spent on the education or training of another spouse.
  • Separation Alimony When a couple separates and one of the spouses is not having sufficient income, this sort of alimony is ordered. Alimony payments can be ended by mutual consent between the parties, and alimony is transformed into a different type of alimony if the couple divorces.
  • Permanent Alimony This sort of alimony is granted for the lifetime of a person. There are a variety of reasons why permanent alimony may be granted. Disability is one such factor. The court may grant lifetime alimony if the recipient is handicapped or has a disability that prevents him or her from working. Unless one of the spouses dies, or the beneficiary remarries or cohabits with someone else, this sort of alimony will continue.

Factors determining Alimony 

  • Employment status of both the spouses
  • The financial condition of the husband and wife
  • Each spouse’s age, physical condition, mental health, and emotional well-being
  • Duration of the marriage
  • Earning potential of both the spouses
  • Whether the paying spouse is in a position to support the other financially 
  • The standard of living of the couple during their marriage

Case Laws

In Alphonsa Joseph v. Anand Joseph[i], the Kerala High Court has ruled that the wife’s claim for alimony cannot be denied because she works. According to the courts, the goal of alimony is to keep the couple’s quality of living the same as it was before the divorce. In circumstances where the wife’s income is insufficient to maintain the same quality of living as she had during her marriage, she is entitled to alimony from her husband.

In Rani Sethi v. Sunil Sethi[ii]the husband was not having sufficient income therefore the court ordered the wife to pay Rs. 20,000 as monthly support to her husband, plus an additional Rs. 10,000 as litigation costs.

Spousal Support

In Spousal Support during and after the divorce, the higher-earning spouse will be compelled to pay the lower-earning spouse some sort of monetary assistance. The requirements for spousal support vary from case to case, and a court typically makes the ultimate decision on the amount and duration of support.

In a broader sense, both alimony and spousal support are similar in India. They are interchangeable and have the same meaning. Alimony is an outdated term that is frequently associated with men financially supporting women. Spousal support, on the other hand, has nothing to do with gender. It refers to a spouse who has the financial means and resources to assist the other spouse in “supporting” the other spouse after a divorce. Instead of gender roles, spousal support is based on income and earning potential. 

Alimony was also linked to wrongdoing. If one spouse was ‘at fault’ for the divorce, the court may be more likely to order alimony payments because the ‘innocent’ spouse suffered as a result of the at-fault spouse’s wrongdoing. With the change in divorce legislation, spousal support felt like a better term to use to describe financial support between divorced parties. However, many people continue to refer to spousal support as alimony.


Palimony is a legal provision that provides maintenance to partners who lived together in a live-in relationship after the divorce. However, it only applies to meaningful relationships, not to those in which one or both partners are married to someone else. The term Palimony was initially granted in the case of Velusamy v. Patchaiammal[iii] where the Supreme Court recognized the right to ‘Palimony’ in live-in relationships and deemed it equivalent to alimony. The court also established a set of criteria for determining whether a relationship is of the nature of marriage and thus eligible for palimony.

Factors for claiming Palimony 

  • A couple must live together and share a common household with free consent.
  • The couple must have spent a significant period with each other. 
  • A couple must be suitable to marry.
  • A couple must act as a married couple in front of society.

Case Laws

In Badri Prasad v. Dy. Director of Consolidation[iv]the Supreme Court for the first time gave validity to live-in relationships. The court issued an order stating that there is a strong presumption in favour of wedlock if the partners have lived together as husband and wife for a long time; however, this presumption is rebuttable, and the burden of proof is on the person attempting to deprive this relationship of its legal origin.

In Tulsa & Ors v. Durghatiya & Ors[v]the children born out of a live-in relationship were granted legal status by the court. The court determined that if a couple in a live-in relationship cohabits for a significant amount of time in front of a society that regards them to be married, a child born out of such connection is legal and has a right to property from the parents’ estate.


Palimony is similar to alimony in the form of relief given to a spouse by another spouse during a divorce. The only difference is that the couple receiving palimony is not a legally married couple; rather, they are people who lived together as a married couple for a long time before becoming separated. Both alimony and palimony are intended to help the financially weaker partner improve his or her financial situation, which may have deteriorated as a result of the divorce or separation. Spousal support is a monetary contribution made by one spouse to the other. It is aimed at helping a spouse who didn’t work during the marriage or earns much less than the other spouse to meets their financial obligations following the divorce.


[i] Alphonsa Joseph v. Anand Joseph 2018 SCC Online Ker 5012 

[ii] Rani Sethi v. Sunil Sethi 179 (2011) DLT 414

[iii] Velusamy v. Patchaiammal (2010) 10 SCC 469

[iv] Badri Prasad v. Dy. Director of Consolidation 1978 AIR 1557

[v] Tulsa & Ors v. Durghatiya & Ors (2008) 4 SCC 520

Bhakti Arora
I am Bhakti Arora, a final year student at Amity Law School, Delhi affiliated with GGSIPU. I have a keen interest in Family Law, Environment Law, and Criminal Law. I feel that writing content helps me to increase my knowledge and helps people looking for relevant information. It also helps me in widening my thinking and analyzing capacity.