How Alimony Amounts Are Determined

One key issue in divorce proceedings is determining the value of alimony – the allowance the law creates for one spouse to receive from the other for financial support. This post aims to clarify how Mississippi law defines alimony and understanding which kinds of alimony are available to spouses and their children.

How Mississippi Law Defines Alimony

In Mississippi, there are four types of alimony: lump sum, periodic payment, rehabilitative, and reimbursement. A lump sum is a fixed and final dollar amount paid in one payment or over a set of payments over a period of time. In this instance, the court cannot change the amount once it’s been decided, nor does death or remarriage of either spouse affect it. Periodic payments can change and end at the death of either spouse or the recipient spouse’s remarriage or cohabitation.

In either instance, the court has to decide on a specific amount. It will take various factors into account, including health, earning capacities of both spouses, all sources of income, reasonable needs and care of children, and living expenses. Taxes also come into play during this process.

The type of alimony most commonly awarded is rehabilitative support, which is a payment similar to permanent support, but with a different purpose. Rehabilitative support aims to provide the supported spouse with financial help while acquiring necessary job skills or education to find employment. The goal is for the supported spouse to eventually be financially independent. Typically, this all comes in the form of monthly payments made by one spouse for a fixed amount of time until the court-ordered end date.

If one spouse financially contributed to the other’s career or educational advancement, the court can award reimbursement support. In one example, if one spouse helped pay for the other’s law school education, the court may order the recipient of the degree to pay back certain expenses. The court will determine a proper, binding amount, meaning neither spouse can change it later.

Mississippi courts try to set alimony amounts that developed a similar standard of living for spouses receiving the support. Payments must be deemed reasonable and must reflect the income and earning realities for both parties.

In a periodic payment case, either spouse can ask the court to change the amount based on new hardships (but not those purposely brought on to reduce the amount). The court can also take emergency situations into consideration. Unless there was an agreement as part of the initial alimony ruling, payment amounts can be brought before the court for later adjustments.

What Happens When a Spouse Cannot Pay Alimony

If a spouse isn’t paying support for many reasons, a judge could issue a contempt of court ruling against the paying spouse that would lead to a lien or wage garnishment to make up the lost amount. In any case, the recipient spouse should keep good records along the way of each payment to know how much he/she has earned and how much to expect in future payments.


If you’re facing the potential of alimony in a divorce, it’s essential to consult a knowledgeable divorce attorney to understand your rights and options. Contact the Law Offices of Rusty Williard today at (601) 824-9797 to schedule a free consultation for your specific situation.