Alimony, or spousal support, is a possible outcome of divorce in which the court orders one spouse to pay the other, to make up any unfair economic differences that result from the dissolution of marriage. Understanding alimony in your divorce case can prepare you for potential paperwork, processes, and outcomes that lie ahead. Learn the laws and procedures for deciding alimony in Pennsylvania to learn whether the law entitles you to spousal payments after your divorce.
How the Courts Decide on Alimony
Alimony serves to help one spouse sustain previous standards of living in the event that the spouse does not have the means, education, or ability to support him or herself. Only certain individuals can receive alimony after a separation. In Pennsylvania, the courts will order spousal maintenance if it deems a former spouse cannot meet his or her needs without financial assistance from the other spouse. A judge will look at many factors when considering alimony:
- Length of the marriage
- Employment status and income of each spouse
- Education level of each spouse
- Jobs held prior to the marriage
- Education, skills, and job experience acquired during the marriage
- Health of the spouse
- One spouse’s disability
- Child care responsibilities
- The financial support one spouse gave to the other during marriage
- Sacrifices one spouse made for the good of the family
The judge will also take into account whether the other spouse can afford to make spousal payments, while still maintaining a reasonable standard of living for him or herself. Typically, a judge will assign alimony in cases where one spouse has little to no workplace experience, skills, and education – making it difficult for the spouse to make a living wage. In this case, alimony gives the spouse time to gain an education or skills to work in the future.
Types of Alimony
The most common type of alimony is rehabilitative, which is temporary spousal support until the recipient spouse can support his or herself. The courts will generally affix a specific period of time – such as enough time to finish school or obtain a job – in which one spouse will receive alimony from the other. A judge may periodically review rehabilitative alimony terms to extend or discontinue them based on the recipient spouse’s progress.
Reimbursement alimony is another type, in which one spouse pays the other for expenses incurred during the marriage. An example is if one spouse paid for the other to attend medical school. This type of alimony will last until the spouse has repaid the debt. In cases involving a long marriage or where one spouse has a disability, the courts may award permanent alimony – until the death or remarriage of the recipient spouse.
Calculating Your Alimony Amount
If a judge deems you eligible to receive alimony, he/she will calculate the amount based on the Pennsylvania Code Rule 1910.16.4. This rule has a formula for calculating spousal support, which involves the obligor’s monthly net income (less the obligor’s monthly support or alimony obligations) less the receiver’s monthly net income, the courts then multiply this amount by 30% to come up with the amount of monthly alimony. The formula will change depending on the number of dependent children.
Spousal support is complex and involves dozens of factors and considerations. To talk about alimony eligibility and potential monthly amounts for your specific case, contact an attorney. Only a family law attorney can help you work through alimony issues and answer specific questions. An attorney can fight for your right to receive alimony payments if necessary. During any divorce case in Pennsylvania, consider retaining a family lawyer to represent your interests and protect your rights.