Alimony payments, sometimes called spousal support or maintenance, are ordered by the court to help a lower-income spouse meet their obligations during and after a divorce. Support payments can be temporary, or they can last until the lower-income spouse can support themselves. So, what happens when you are ordered to pay an amount you don’t think you can afford? There are legal avenues you can take to work with the court system to have your support payments reduced. While this is an option, it can take some time, and if you are experiencing financial distress from high alimony payments, even a short wait can seem difficult. Getting the calculation right the first time is preferable to trying to have the court reexamine your payments after the fact.
How Alimony is Calculated
Pennsylvania uses a spousal support formula to determine the amount of alimony that will be paid. Alimony isn’t automatic in Pennsylvania. The court will determine if spousal maintenance is necessary in the case using several factors. An alimony award will depend on these several factors reviewed by a judge:
- Length of marriage
- Financial obligation and income of both spouses
- Ages of both spouses
- Physical and mental health of both spouses
- Marital standard of living each spouse was accustomed to during the marriage
- Spousal career sacrifices for childcare or educational pursuits of the other spouse
- Any domestic violence claims in the home
- Any children and their ages
I Was Ordered to Pay Too Much — How Can I Prove It?
If you feel that your alimony payments are more than you can afford to pay, the court has guidelines and formulas to prevent this from happening. It’s easy to understand if you are beginning to feel overwhelmed and stressed out, wondering how you will manage everything. Spousal support payments are an important part of the system. These payments do not exist, so the court can award necessary financial help to one party and financial hardship to the other. When spouses are asked to submit income and obligation reports, it’s important that the records submitted are thorough, accurate, and detailed. The court uses this information to ensure support payments are fair and manageable.
The Consequences of Failing to Pay Alimony on Time
If your payments are too much and the payments are causing you financial strain, you need to meet with your attorney immediately. The sooner you can have the payments changed, the better. Refusing or missing alimony payments can lead to serious consequences like tax refund offset, wage garnishment, and even jail time. If you absolutely can’t meet the obligation, you can work with your attorney to contact the court to let them know of your inability to pay. There are legal means by which you can help alleviate burdensome alimony payments. The court system doesn’t want you stuck indefinitely making support payments you can’t afford. Your lawyer can submit a modification on your behalf.
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