As husbands' incomes increased, and with it the possibility of paying alimony, the awarding of alimony increased, generally because a wife could show a need for ongoing financial support, and the husband had the ability to pay.Alimony moved beyond support to permitting the more dependent spouse to become financially independent or to have the same standard of living as during the marriage or common law marriage, though this was not possible in most cases.Some state statutes, including those of Texas, Montana, Kansas, Utah, Kentucky and Maine, give explicit guidelines to judges on the amount and/or duration of alimony.

In some jurisdictions the court always has jurisdiction to grant maintenance should one of the former spouses become a public charge.

Alimony is not child support, where, after divorce, one parent is required to contribute to the support of their children by paying money to the child's other parent or guardian.

In the 1970s, the United States Supreme Court ruled against gender bias in alimony awards and, according to the U. Census Bureau, the percentage of alimony recipients who are male rose from 2.4% in 2001 to 3.6% in 2006.

Once dissolution proceedings commence, either party may seek interim or pendente lite support during the course of the litigation.

In contrast, if the wife committed the misconduct, she was considered to have forfeited any claim to ongoing support.

However, during the period, parties could rarely afford alimony, and so it was rarely awarded by courts.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 has changed the federal tax treatment of alimony for divorces and separation agreements signed on or after January 1, 2019, making it identical to that for child support—non-deductible for the payer, and non-taxable for the recipient. A spouse trying to recover back alimony sometimes may use only the collection procedures that are available to all other creditors (such as reporting the amount due to a collection agency).

One who allows his or her alimony obligations to go into arrears, where there is an ability to pay, may be found in contempt of court and be sent to jail.

The term alimony comes from the Latin word alimōnia ("nourishment, sustenance", from alere, "to nourish"), from which also alimentary (of, or relating to food, nutrition, or digestion) and the Scots law concept of aliment, and was a rule of sustenance to assure the wife's lodging, food, clothing, and other necessities after divorce.137.