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If you are headed for divorce, you will certainly be interested in learning about spousal support, also called alimony. Will you be obligated to pay it? Or, will your spouse be ordered to financially support you?

Alimony, also known as "spousal support," is money paid by the higher-earning spouse to support the lower-earning spouse during and/or after a divorce. The couple may agree on an amount and duration of spousal support, or if they don't agree, the court can step in and decide for them.

There are three types of spousal support in Pennsylvania, including:

Spousal Support: This is paid after the spouses separate, but before the divorce is finalized. Spousal support can even be ordered before a divorce action is filed with the court.

Alimony Pendente Lite: Like spousal support, this is ordered before the divorce is made final. Alimony pendente lite refers to a temporary order for spousal support while the divorce is pending. However, unlike spousal support, alimony pendente lite is ordered after the divorce action is filed, but before the divorce is finalized.

Alimony: While spousal support and alimony pendente lite are ordered before the divorce is finalized, alimony is ordered when the divorce decree is entered by the court, and it is in effect from that point forward.

How is alimony calculated in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania does not have a set guideline for calculating the amount or duration of alimony. It's up to the judge's discretion whether to order alimony and if so, how much and for what duration. However, Pennsylvania law does require family court judges to consider the following factors:

  • Each spouse's income
  • Each spouse's earning capacity
  • The duration of the couple's marriage
  • The age and health of both spouses
  • The spouses available resources, assets and benefits
  • Any inheritances or future inheritances
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The child custody arrangement of any minor children
  • Either spouse's contribution as a homemaker
  • Either spouse's contribution to the other spouse's education
  • Each spouse's debts and separate property
  • History of domestic violence
  • History of marital misconduct, such as adultery, before the separation
  • Whether the higher-earning spouse can afford to pay alimony
  • If the spouse asking for alimony is unable to support themselves through employment

In Pennsylvania, it varies how long a court may order alimony; it depends on the couple's individual circumstances. The court may set an end date, or it may not set an end date. Alimony does however, automatically end when:

  • The receiving spouse remarries
  • Either spouse passes away
  • The receiving spouse cohabitates with a new romantic partner

Generally, alimony is tax deductible for the spouse paying it, and it's taxable income for the receiving spouse. Also, either party can petition the court to modify the alimony payments when there has been a significant change in circumstances.

To discuss your divorce case with an experienced Pennsylvania no fault divorce attorney for free, contact Cairns Law Offices, home of the low-cost divorce!

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