By Anna Ciardi
Alimony in Pennsylvania refers to payments that one spouse periodically makes to the other after a divorce.
It is important to note that under Pennsylvania divorce law, alimony is a distinct concept from spousal support and from alimony pendente lite. These two latter terms refer to payments made to the lower earning spouse prior to and during the litigation of the divorce, respectively.
Pennsylvania Alimony Factors
There are no specific guidelines or calculations to determine alimony under Pennsylvania law. Instead, when deciding whether to award alimony during divorce litigation, the court must consider these 17 factors, 23 Pa.C.S. 3701(b):
1) The relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties.
2) The ages and the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the parties.
3) The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits.
4) The expectancies and inheritances of the parties.
5) The duration of the marriage.
6) The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party.
7) The extent to which the earning power, expenses or financial obligations of a party will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child.
8) The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage.
9) The relative education of the parties and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment.
10) The relative assets and liabilities of the parties.
11) The property brought to the marriage by either party.
12) The contribution of a spouse as homemaker.
13) The relative needs of the parties.
14) The marital misconduct of either of the parties during the marriage. The court in its determinations relative to alimony shall not consider the marital misconduct of either of the parties from the date of final separation, except that the court shall consider the abuse of one party by the other party. As used in this paragraph, “abuse” shall have the meaning given to it under section 6102 (relating to definitions).
15) The federal, state and local tax ramifications of the alimony award.
16) Whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property, including, but not limited to, property distributed under Chapter 35 (relating to property rights), to provide for the party’s reasonable needs.
17) Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment.
This list makes it clear that determining when alimony in Pennsylvania is appropriate is far from straightforward, as there are many alimony factors that are fairly subjective. This gives the court a high level of discretion when determining whether to award alimony, how much, and how long of a duration.
Property Division and Pennsylvania Alimony
It is important to note that when dividing finances in a divorce, the parties do not walk away with what they financially contributed; other non-monetary contributions to the marriage will be considered when fashioning an alimony award.
However, it is important to note that Pennsylvania courts view alimony as a secondary remedy. If possible, courts should attempt to divide property in a way that makes alimony unnecessary. This is because courts like to financially separate divorcing couples as much as they equitably can.
How Long Does Alimony Last in Pennsylvania?
The court has the authority and discretion to award alimony for a defined period of time or an indefinite period. Lifetime alimony awards are rare, but they can happen if the circumstances justify it, such as if one spouse is disabled and would never be able to seek employment.
Awards of alimony remain subject to review, and the court can act to modify or terminate alimony payments, if one of the former spouses is able to prove that there has been a change in circumstances of a substantial and continuing nature.
Also, cohabitation with a romantic partner and/or remarriage ordinarily will terminate alimony, as will the death of either spouse.
Pittsburgh and Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers For Men
If you are a man facing divorce and are susceptible to possibly paying alimony, please consult with a divorce lawyer in your jurisdiction to ensure your rights are protected. Cordell & Cordell has offices and family law attorneys located in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Radnor should you seek additional information or possible legal representation.