Alimentos has been rendered as “alimony” in several bilingual dictionaries but in Spanish law these expressions are not cognates. “Alimony” (also called “spousal support,” “spousal maintenance,” “financial provision for spouse,” etc.) is the English-language equivalent of what in Spanish law is known as a pensión compensatoria, a court-ordered allowance that one spouse pays to the economically weaker one as the result of a separation or divorce agreement (called convenio regulador) “para compensar el desequilibrio económico padecido por un cónyuge ” (Art. 97 CC). In Spain spousal support orders may provide for “permanent alimony” (pensión compensatoria indefinida), “temporary alimony,” (pensión compensatoria temporal), or “lump sum alimony” or “alimony in gross” (prestación compensatoria única; prestación a tanto alzado).
Rather than referring to “alimony,” in this context alimentos refers to a pensión alimenticia para los hijos, denoting what in English is most commonly known as “child support,” the amount paid after separation or divorce (usually by the noncustodial or nonresidential parent to the custodial or residential parent) for expenses incurred for children of the marriage (also called “child maintenance,” “child support maintenance,” etc.)
In a broader sense alimentos may likewise denote an obligación de alimentos or deuda alimenticia, i.e., a family member’s legal obligation to provide economic maintenance to another (Arts. 142 ff. CC). In this context, alimentante refers to the family member who provides economic support or maintenance to another, i.e., the “support (or) maintenance provider,” while the “support (or) maintenance recipient,” is described as an alimentista.