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Alimony and spousal support are the same thing

A couple in Ohio is currently working to finalize their divorce. The two have children together and are negotiating the end of the marriage well, but the husband has told the wife previously that he would never agree to a document that has him paying alimony. He has also said that he would always support their children and his soon-to-be ex-wife.

Documents sent by his lawyer, which the husband has agreed to, show that he will pay both child support and spousal support. The sum that he has agreed to for spousal support is adequate and the wife has even considered calling it generous. But aren't spousal support and alimony the same thing?

According to at least two area family law attorneys -- and probably more -- the two terms are interchangeable. The wife's attorney told her that the current agreement on the table, though it does not use the word "alimony," will require him to make payments in this regard. Her attorney then suggested that she sign the agreement, but she is worried that her husband will be upset when he realizes one day that he is paying alimony, despite saying that he would never do such a thing.

Some would say she is right to be worried. The best thing for their relationship, in the long run, may be to tell him that he will be paying alimony if she agrees to the current offer. As long as he understands this -- and his offer stands -- then the agreement can be made.

According to some, Ohio used to use the term alimony in its statutes before it was changed to spousal support. Whatever term it is, the statutory requirement remains the same: Spousal support results in the payment of support from one spouse to another. But it is good that the couple is able to negotiate a settlement in a non-combative way, which most family law attorneys believe is the best way to approach the process.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, "Wholly Matrimony: Husband might need clarity on terms of divorce," Mar. 4, 2012

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