Understanding alimony in Pennsylvania

There are three types of financial support that may be ordered before, during or after a divorce in Pennsylvania.

Before, during or after a divorce, one spouse may be required to make payments to another as a form of financial support. In Pennsylvania, there are several different types of support. While there is not always a specific formula for determining how much one person may have to give another, there are factors that will shape what that support looks like. Anyone going through a divorce should have an understanding of how these payments come to be.

What types of payments are available?

Pennsylvania recognizes three types of financial support. The first, alimony, is an order that takes place when the final decree of divorce is entered. The other two forms, spousal support and alimony pendente lite, are ordered prior to the finalization. Spousal support is paid after the couple separates. Alimony pendent lite is temporary takes place during divorce proceedings.

How are spousal support and alimony pendente lite determined?

Unlike alimony, which has no set formula, spousal support and alimony pendente lite payments are calculated based on an equation outlined in the Pennsylvania Code. That equation factors in the net income of both parties as well as if there are dependent children.

How is alimony determined?

Under the law, a court will take the following factors into account:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The economic circumstances of each spouse
  • Each spouse's age and wellbeing
  • Whether having custody of a child will affect a spouse's earning capacity
  • What each party brought to the marriage in terms of property
  • The standard of living established during the marriage

A court can also factor in whether one spouse somehow contributed to the other's education or career prior to the end of the marriage. For example, one spouse may have stayed at home with children so the other could gain extra training.

How long does alimony last?

A court has the discretion to order alimony to last as long as it is reasonable. In some cases, there may be a specific end date, or the payments may be ongoing. Further, if circumstances significantly change, a court could review the order and change it accordingly.

There are several situations in which alimony payments automatically end. For example, if the recipient dies or gets remarried, the other spouse is no longer required to pay support. Pennsylvania law also states that alimony will end if the recipient lives with a person of the opposite sex if that person is not a relative.

Determining a fair support structure is key to ensuring the wellbeing of both parties. Taxes, extenuating circumstances and special needs should all be taken into account. People who have questions about this issue should speak to a family law attorney in Pennsylvania.