Understanding Alimony in Pennsylvania

March 20, 2018 / 8:00 pm

Created more than 3,000 years ago, The Code of Hammurabi was one of humanity’s earliest sets of written laws.

Among the things in the code was a provision that said that if a man wanted to leave his wife, he needed to give her a dowry, along with rights to “field, garden or property.”

And with that, the concept of alimony – financial support paid by one spouse to another after a divorce – was born.

But what does alimony look like today in 21st century Pennsylvania? Read on to find out, with the help of a Doylestown alimony attorney.

How does alimony work in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania courts can order an ex-spouse to pay three types of financial support during a divorce case: spousal support, alimony pendente lite and alimony:

  • Spousal support – Paid after the two parties separate, but before they finalize their divorce. A court can order this support before the divorce action is filed.
  • Alimony pendente lite – Pendente lite is Latin for “while action is pending,” and refers to a temporary order of financial support made after someone files for divorce, but before they divorce becomes final.
  • Alimony – An order for support made when – or after – a divorce becomes final.

How is alimony calculated?

Unlike child support, there is no set formula for establishing alimony. Working with a Doylestown alimony attorney can prepare you for the types of questions the court might ask.

Under the law, Pennsylvania courts must consider several different factors:

  • Each spouse’s financial needs, and their assets and debts
  • How much income each spouse has, and their earning ability, and their sources of income, including benefits like insurance and retirement plans and any inheritances or property that they expect to inherit
  • How long they were married, and their age and physical, mental and emotional health
  • Whether either spouse helped the other get education, training or increased income
  • Whether one spouse is limited in their earning ability or has expenses due to custody of a child
  • The standard of living during the marriage and the separate property each spouse brought to the marriage
  • Whether a spouse contributed to the marriage as a homemaker
  • Whether either spouse engaged in marital misconduct during the marriage (and not after final separation, except in cases of abuse)
  • Whether the spouse asking for alimony can support themselves through reasonable employment, and whether they have enough property to meet their needs
  • The tax implications of alimony for both spouses

How long does alimony last?

In Pennsylvania, an alimony order might have a fixed end date, or it may be ongoing. Courts can review and modify the order as circumstances change.

Alimony stops automatically in cases where the spouse receiving alimony remarries, dies, or is living with someone of the opposite sex who is not a family member. Alimony will also end if the spouse paying support dies, unless the agreement stipulates that it will continue.

How does alimony affect my taxes?

If you’re paying alimony, you can deduct those payments from your income. If you are receiving alimony, that counts as a form of income and should be declared as such.

Can the court modify the terms of the alimony?

If circumstances change for one of the spouses, they can file a motion to modify the alimony order. This change could be a significant loss of income, or an illness or disability.

As alimony attorneys, Doylestown’s Penglase & Benson deals with questions like these on a regular basis. And we’re ready to help guide you through the process of alimony, making sure your voice is heard during your divorce case.

If you’re seeking an alimony attorney in Doylestown, contact us today to schedule a consultation.