Difference Between Alimony And Maintenance (With Table)

Alimony and maintenance are two co-related terms. When a husband and wife get separated they go for alimony and maintenance. It’s the financial support a spouse gives to another after the divorce. Though the terms are co-related, they are not interchangeable. There are some key differences between the two terms which are mentioned below in this article.

Alimony vs Maintenance

The main difference between alimony and maintenance is that Alimony is a one-time payment by a spouse to the other who cannot financially support himself/herself. On the other hand, maintenance is a fixed amount of money that one spouse has to give to the other monthly, quarterly, or annually (any fixed interval of time) as per the court orders.

Alimony is a one-time payment. After the divorce, the spouse only has to pay the other only one time. After the one-time payment, the one to pay money does not have to pay the other spouse any kind of financial support.

Maintenance is a periodic type of payment. The spouse has to give regular payment to the other monthly, annually, or in any fixed amount of time. And maintenance is only allowed to be given in the form of cash. The maintenance has to give until the wife is remarried or permanently for life.

Comparison Table Between Alimony And Maintenance

Parameters of ComparisonAlimonyMaintenance
What is it?Alimony is a one-time payment a spouse has to pay to the other after a mutual divorce.Maintenance is a periodic payment spouse has to pay to the other who is cannot financially support himself/herself.
FormAlimony can be paid in form of cash, property, or shares of the business.Maintenance has to be paid only in the form of cash.
Who paysThe highest-earning ex-partner.The highest or only earning ex-partner.
Extends toAlimony Does not extend to anyone.It extends to the dependants. The husband has to give higher maintenance if the children are living with the wife.
TerminationAlimony is only a one-time payment. After that, the spouse is not obliged to pay the other.Maintenance is periodic payment, it is terminated when the other one is remarried.

What is Alimony?

Alimony is an allowance, a sum of money which a spouse has to give to the other after the divorce. It is a legal obligation that the husband has to give a fixed amount of money to his wife after the divorce. This can be the other way around as well if the wife earns more, however, there are a few cases of that in the world.

Alimony is a one-time payment, which means after one time the spouse haven’t have any need or legal obligation to pay again in any case. This payment can be in the form of cash, property, or shares of the business. The amount which is to be paid can be either fixed mutually between the couple or the court decides it. Mostly, the wife gets half the property from the husband.

Alimony is mostly the amount which the husband and wife mutually decided when they get separated. Alimony does not extend to anyone else. If the child custody is with the wife and the wife chooses to take the alimony, the husband is not obliged to pay the maintenance for the child. All these terms are legally formalized during the divorce. And the alimony is only paid after the divorce is finalized. There is no question of alimony when the marriage is annulled.

What is Maintenance?

Maintenance is the amount of money that the husband has to give to the wife after the divorce. The maintenance is given when the wife is not able to support herself financially. Maintenance is given periodically. It can be monthly, quarterly, annually, basically, any interval of time can be fixed.

This maintenance can be interim or permanent. Interim maintenance is the maintenance that the husband has to pay to the wife during the court proceedings as she cannot sustain herself. And permanent is the one after the court proceedings for the divorce is finalized. A separate petition has to be filed by the wife to ask for the interim maintenance along with the divorce petition.

The maintenance can go on for life or until the wife gets remarried. The court can fix the amount that has to be given or the couple can mutually fix it. Indeed, the maintenance extends to the dependants as well like parents and children. Child custody is formalized during the proceedings. If the children live with the wife the husband has to provide maintenance for them too. And he may have to pay more for the children’s education and marriage and in times of need like medical emergencies.

Main Differences Between Alimony And Maintenance

  1. Alimony is a one-time payment only while Maintenance is a periodic payment.
  2. Alimony can be paid in the form of money, property, or shared of the business while maintenance has to be paid in the form of cash only.
  3. Alimony does not extend to anyone other than the ex-partner. While the maintenance can be extended to the children.
  4. Alimony is paid once the divorce is finalized. Maintenance has to be paid even at the time of the court proceedings.
  5. Alimony is preferred when the couple is divorcing mutually and setting the terms legally. Maintenance is filed when the wife is not financially stable and the divorce is not mutual, mostly.


After the divorce, when one of the spouses, either husband or wife cannot survive financially the other spouse can file a separate petition to ask for financial support. This financial support can be either alimony or maintenance. Although in many countries, the two terms are considered the same.

Alimony is a one-time payment. And it can be either in cash or any other form like property or shares of the business. Maintenance is a periodic payment. The husband has to give the wife a fixed amount every month or yearly. A specific interval of time can be fixed. This period payment is given until the wife is stable financially, or remarried. Or this payment can go for a lifetime. It depends on the case and the court.


  1. https://heinonline.org/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/jaaml21&section=7
  2. https://heinonline.org/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/nclr71&section=27
  3. https://heinonline.org/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/hoflr22&section=26
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