Alimony, also known as spousal support is money paid by the higher-earning spouse to financially support the lower-earning spouse.
You and your spouse may agree to the amount and duration of alimony in your divorce settlement, or if you don't agree on the matter, the court has the power to order alimony.
In Pennsylvania, spousal support orders come in three forms: 1) spousal support, 2) alimony pendente lite, and 3) alimony.
In a Pennsylvania divorce, spousal support and alimony pendente lite are both made while the divorce action is proceeding through the courts, and before the divorce is finalized. For example, a spouse may pay spousal support after the couple separates, but before their divorce is final.
Spousal support can be ordered before the divorce action is even filed with the court.
Like spousal support, alimony pendente lite is ordered while the divorce is pending, however, it is a "temporary" support order. This type of alimony is ordered after the divorce action has been filed, but before the divorce is finalized.
Spousal support and alimony pendente lite are both ordered before the divorce is made final.
If the court is ordering spousal support or alimony pendente lite, the court must follow a set of guidelines while calculating the amount of the support order.
The formula the court uses for calculating spousal support or alimony pendente lite can be found under Rule 1910.16-4 of the Pennsylvania Code.
Alimony is Ordered Later in the Divorce Action
Unlike spousal support and alimony pendente lite, which are both ordered before the divorce is finalized, alimony is ordered at the time the divorce is finalized or afterwards. As far as alimony is concerned, the court does not follow any set guidelines when determining the amount or duration of payments.
When ordering alimony, the court considers the following:
- The age and health of the spouses.
- The length of the marriage.
- Each spouse's income, assets, debts and earning potential.
- The spouses' inheritances.
- Any property coming from an inheritance.
- Any contributions as a homemaker.
- Any contributions to the other spouse's education or training.
- The standard of living established during the marriage.
- The spouses' individual financial needs.
- Tax consequences of alimony.
- If a spouse will be taking care of the couple's minor children.
- Any marital misconduct, including adultery, during the marriage (before the separation).
- If the spouse asking for alimony can afford to support themselves.
In Pennsylvania, the courts may order that alimony ends on a specific date or lasts indefinitely. Alimony payments end when the receiving spouse cohabitates with a new romantic partner, remarries, or either spouse dies, unless the order says the payments will continue beyond the paying spouse's death.
Alimony can be modified providing there has been a significant change in circumstances, such as a sizeable change in income or because of a disability or illness.
To learn more about alimony in Pennsylvania, contact Cairns Law Offices for a free consultation!