How is Alimony Determined?

December 10, 2018 / 7:00 pm

The concept of alimony has been with us for centuries.

It’s older than the Roman Empire, predates the birth of Socrates and Aristotle and had been around for 1,000 years at the time of the first Olympic games.

The point is, humans have long held that alimony – financial support from one spouse to another in the wake of a divorce – is a good idea.

But how is alimony determined? There’s no simple formula. Courts in Pennsylvania will typically have an ex-spouse pay three types of support during a divorce:

  1. Spousal support – This is paid after a separation but before a divorce becomes final.
  2. Alimony pendente lite – Those last two words are Latin for “while action is pending.” The action in this case is the pending divorce. A judge can order one spouse to provide temporary support before the divorce becomes final.
  3. Alimony – An order for financial support issued when – or after – the divorce is finalized.

How is alimony determined?

Under Pennsylvania state law, the question “How is alimony determined” is answered according to quite a few different factors:

  • The length of the marriage and each spouse’s physical, mental and emotional health
  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • The amount of property each spouse brought to the marriage
  • The relative needs of each spouse
  • Their debts and assets
  • The incomes and earning capacities of each spouse
  • Whether the spouse seeking alimony can support themselves through regular employment
  • Whether the spouse seeking alimony has enough property to meet their needs
  • The contribution of one party to the education, training or increased earnings of the other party
  • Their sources of income, including retirement plans, health insurance plans, inheritances or expected inheritances
  • The extent toward which a party’s earnings are affected by child custody obligations
  • Marital misconduct during the marriage, including domestic violence
  • The federal, state and local tax implications for both parties

What are the tax implications of alimony?

Currently, until the end of 2018, if you are receiving alimony payments, that counts as a form of income. You’ll need to declare it when you file your tax return. But if you’re the person paying alimony, you can deduct those payments from your yearly tax return. This tax implication will change, effective January 1, 2019, so be sure to consult with your tax preparer for up-to-date information under the new tax law.

How is alimony different from child support?

Unlike alimony, a court will determine child support based solely on the existence of children and who has custody of those children. In most states, the parent who doesn’t have custody will owe the primary caregiver child support payments.

How long will alimony last?

In Pennsylvania, a court can order alimony to end at a fixed date, or it may be open-ended. Courts can review and change their orders depending on new circumstances. For example, the person paying alimony might suddenly become ill or incapacitated or experience a sharp drop in their income.

And alimony will stop automatically when the person receiving payments remarries, dies or begins living with someone of the opposite sex who is not a family member.

Alimony also stops when the person paying the support dies, unless the agreement stipulates that their estate will continue payments.

Are you facing a divorce proceeding and unsure about your future? Turn to the attorneys of Penglase & Benson.

We’ve spent years dealing with questions like “How is alimony determined?” and “Will I need to pay child support?” and other matters related to divorce and can work to make sure your voice is heard during the proceedings. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.