Understanding Pennsylvania Alimony Laws

Divorced woman holding envelope with alimony, savings for single mom, allowance

Alimony is a monthly payment made by one spouse to another pursuant to a divorce. It is often one of the most complex and contentious issues that must be resolved when a couple decides to end their marriage. In addition, understanding the Pennsylvania alimony laws can be confusing — people often have many misconceptions regarding who is entitled to alimony and the circumstances under which it may be awarded. Parties to a divorce are also often unaware that there are situations in which alimony can be modified or terminated.

Whether you’re the spouse paying alimony, or the party receiving it, here are a few things you should know about Pennsylvania’s alimony laws:

There are Several Types of Alimony in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania recognizes several different types of alimony payments, which may be available under different circumstances. For instance, a dependent spouse may be entitled to “spousal support” upon separation — before the divorce proceedings have even been filed. After the case has been commenced, alimony pendente lite may be awarded to maintain the status quo as the divorce case proceeds through litigation. Alimony is a payment that has been ordered after the divorce has been finalized.

In certain situations, a spouse might be entitled to equitable reimbursement. These “alimony-like” payments may be awarded in cases to compensate a spouse for their contribution to the marriage and create “equity” when alimony payments would not be permitted.

The Amount and Duration of Alimony is Based on Statutory Factors

No one is automatically entitled to alimony payments — alimony is only awarded in cases where a court deems it necessary, or the spouses include it in their settlement agreement. There is no minimum amount of time the marriage must have lasted to be entitled to alimony. It is strictly based on the needs of the dependent spouse. Specifically, a court will evaluate a number of statutory factors under 23 Pa.C.S. §3701 to determine whether alimony is appropriate.

Under Pennsylvania alimony laws, the factors a court will look at include the following:

  • Each spouse’s earnings and earning capacity
  • The health condition and age of each spouse
  • Each party’s source of income
  • Any expected inheritances
  • How long the marriage lasted
  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • Either spouse’s contributions to the other spouse’s education
  • The financial impact on the custodial parent
  • Each party’s relative assets and liabilities
  • Property brought into the marriage by either spouse
  • The relative needs of each spouse
  • Whether either party committed marital misconduct
  • A spouse’s homemaker contributions
  • The tax consequences that may come with an alimony award

The court will also consider whether the party requesting alimony lacks sufficient property to provide for their needs and whether they are able to support themselves through reasonable employment. The judge has the discretion to determine the duration of time alimony must be paid.

Spouses Can Agree on Alimony Without Court Intervention

Not every case involving alimony must be decided by a judge. Spouses can negotiate and reach an agreement on whether the financially dependent spouse will receive alimony payments — and for how long. This can be done out of court using mediation, the collaborative process, or another form of alternative dispute resolution. Alimony payments can also be decided in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement entered into between the spouses.

An Alimony Order Can Be Modified

Pennsylvania alimony law recognizes that there may be situations in which the spouse who has been ordered to pay alimony encounters financial hardship. If there has been a substantial change in circumstances, alimony payments may be modified, suspended, or terminated. Circumstances that might warrant an alimony modification can include the paying spouse’s loss of employment, a medical emergency, or retirement. Additionally, alimony may be terminated in cases where the receiving spouse’s income has significantly increased, or they have remarried.

You Can Enforce a Court Order for Alimony

If the court has ordered alimony payments, failure to make them can result in harsh penalties. Under Pennsylvania alimony laws, an alimony recipient has several options available to them to enforce an alimony order. These include requesting a wage garnishment order from the court for up to 50% of the paying party’s wages. The receiving party may also be entitled to seize the paying party’s property or seek an order for contempt of court. If the paying party is found to be in contempt, they may incur a monetary fine or even be sentenced to time in jail, depending on the circumstances.

Contact an Experienced Pennsylvania Alimony Attorney

Alimony matters can be complicated and it’s essential to have a skillful attorney with a deep understanding of Pennsylvania alimony laws to ensure a positive resolution is reached. Berman & Associates offers knowledgeable representation and high-quality legal services for those facing divorce and alimony issues in Pennsylvania. Providing each client with the time and attention they deserve, we are committed to securing a favorable outcome in every case. Located in Media, Pennsylvania, we serve clients in Delaware, Chester, and Montgomery Counties, as well as in the City of Philadelphia. We welcome you to contact us to schedule a consultation.

Categories: Alimony