Alimony was largely set up in the first place because one spouse would not have nearly the ability to provide his or her own support if the marriage broke up. Many people married with the intent that only one spouse would work, while the other would take care of the home or the children.
Therefore, alimony was a way for that spouse to survive if the marriage ended. Without it, he or she would be thrown into poverty with no way out. This would be especially problematic for those who had reached an age at which getting remarried was difficult.
However, the world is very different today. In many marriages, the spouses both work and contribute to the overall income. Many couples both have degrees from universities and advanced educations. They may both have careers and marketable skills. The marriage is not so one-sided anymore, they may split the duties in the home, and neither spouse would be in nearly as much trouble after a divorce.
While this has not eliminated the need for alimony in the modern day, it does mean that the court has to consider all of these things when deciding on payments. The judge must look at the earning potential on both sides, the job market, the skills each person has, and how their future has actually been impacted by the marriage. Each case is different, but the judge can by no means assume that there is not this new level of equality.
As alimony continues to change with society, be sure you know exactly how it could impact your divorce.
Source: Tennessee Bar Association, "You’ve Come a Long Way, Alimony," accessed June 26, 2015