Understanding Spousal Support and Alimony in a Pennsylvania Divorce

Gavel laying on top of us money.

Sometimes in a marriage, one spouse is financially dependent upon the other. In such cases, the lower-earning spouse might need financial assistance to get back on their feet after a divorce or while the proceedings are on-going. Alimony is meant to help ensure the dependent spouse has the economic stability they need as they become financially self-reliant. However, there are a few types of recognized alimony in Pennsylvania.

What Types of Spousal Support Are Recognized in Pennsylvania?

Divorce isn’t only emotionally challenging — it can be financially difficult. Throughout the divorce process, spouses must ensure that their bills are paid, their mortgage payments are made, and their taxes are taken care of. Satisfying these financial obligations can be hard when they are compounded by attorney fees and litigation costs. It’s important to understand that there are legal mechanisms in place to help a financially dependent spouse make ends meet before, during, and after the divorce process.

There are three types of spousal support recognized in Pennsylvania, based on the stage of the divorce proceedings. The types of support include the following:

  • Alimony — Alimony is payment made to a financially dependent spouse after the divorce judgment has been issued. The amount and length of time it is paid is meant to be based on the economic needs of the receiving spouse.
  • Spousal support — Spousal support is financial support that is paid after the couple separates but before the divorce proceedings have been commenced.
  • Alimony pendente lite — This type of support may be awarded while the divorce action is pending. It can help ensure the financial status quo is maintained before the judgment is issued and that the dependent spouse can afford the costs associated with the divorce.

Alimony may be paid periodically. Usually, payments are made monthly or annually. It can also be made as one lump sum or awarded for a certain duration. For instance, a judge might order alimony for a specific number of months or years — or until the dependent spouse gains employment.

How is Alimony Calculated?

There is no set mathematical formula to determine alimony in Pennsylvania. Rather, courts evaluate 17 factors when deciding whether an award of alimony is necessary. By statute, the relevant factors a judge may consider include:

  1. The relative earnings and earnings capacities of the parties
  2. The ages of the parties, in addition to their physical, mental, and emotional conditions
  3. Each party’s sources of income — including medical, retirement, insurance, and other benefits
  4. The expected inheritances of the parties
  5. How long the marriage lasted
  6. The contribution of a party to the other’s education, training, or increased earning power
  7. The extent to which each party’s earning power, expenses, or financial obligations will be affected by serving as the custodial parent
  8. The standard of living the parties enjoyed during the marriage
  9. The education of the parties
  10. The assets and liabilities of each party
  11. The property each party brought into the marriage
  12. A spouse’s contributions as a homemaker
  13. Each party’s relative needs
  14. Marital misconduct committed by either party
  15. Tax consequences of an alimony award
  16. Whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property
  17. Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of being self-supporting

Alimony may be awarded for a definite or indefinite duration, depending upon what is reasonable under the circumstances. The court must specify the reasons it is awarding or denying a request for alimony in an order made pursuant to the applicable statute. After an order has been entered, it can be modified in the event of a substantial change in circumstances. Remarriage of the receiving party or the passing of either party terminates an award of alimony.

Does Marital Misconduct Impact Alimony?

Notably, Pennsylvania law specifically allows judges to take marital misconduct into consideration when deciding whether an award of alimony is necessary. Although it isn’t required to prove fault to obtain a divorce, a spouse who committed adultery might be barred from receiving alimony. However, the supporting spouse must be able to prove that adultery occurred and that it was the reason for the divorce. It is also necessary for the supporting spouse to have “clean hands” — in other words, they must not have consented to the adultery or received a benefit from it.

In addition, under 23 Pa. C.S. § 3706, a party who cohabitates with a romantic partner prior to divorce is not entitled to receive alimony.

Contact an Experienced Pennsylvania Alimony Attorney

Pennsylvania alimony matters can be complex. It’s best to have a knowledgeable divorce attorney by your side who can ensure your interests are safeguarded every step of the way. Located in Exeter, Pennsylvania, The Kulick Law Firm, LLC is committed to providing high-quality legal services to clients in Northeastern Pennsylvania who are facing divorce. Call (570) 203-2756 or contact us online to schedule a consultation to learn how we can help.