The term alimony payment refers to a periodic pre-determined sum awarded to a spouse or former spouse following a separation or divorce. The payment is the actual sum paid to fulfill alimony, which is the obligation to make payments for support or maintenance. Alimony payment structures and requirements are outlined by a decree or court order. The term alimony is also called spousal support or maintenance. The terms are interchangeable. Such payments can take the form of monthly payments, a lump sum, set amounts at set periods of time or other forms. Alimony is a legal obligation in which one spouse makes regular payments to the other spouse—former or current. Payments are normally issued in cases where one spouse earns a higher income than the other. The conditions of the agreement depends on how long the marriage lasted, the ability to pay and the need of the recipient spouse. Alimony often terminates upon the death of the paying or receiving spouse or upon remarriage of the receiving spouse. Refusing to pay or not keeping up to date with alimony payments may result in civil or criminal charges for the payer.