Alimony in Pennsylvania
Alimony is the financial support made to a former spouse after a divorce settlement.
Not to be confused with spousal support, the term alimony always refers to post-divorce periodic payments. Each state’s specific laws vary when it comes to alimony payments. While Pennsylvania does recognize alimony as a possible remedy in divorce cases, it is not awarded in every case.
The Pennsylvania Divorce Code of 1980 provides that the court may award alimony to either party “only if it finds that alimony is necessary.” The Divorce Code also governs the amount and duration of alimony payments however, unlike with spousal support, there are no specific guidelines that determine the amount of alimony to be paid under Pennsylvania law.
Pennsylvania law states that married people are financially responsible for one another. This means the husband has a legal duty to support his wife, just as the wife has a legal duty to support her husband. This duty is upheld until the final Decree in Divorce is granted.
While in some states, alimony is a broad remedy in divorce, in Pennsylvania it is authorized in limited situations. Alimony is generally based upon need and is decided in conjunction with equitable distribution of marital assets. In Pennsylvania, alimony can be either “rehabilitative” or “permanent.”
Rehabilitative alimony is a short-term agreement. This measure enables a spouse to get back on his or her feet financially. It can be awarded to the other spouse so that they may go back to school or receiving technical training to acquire job skills. This enables the spouse to become competitive in the job market. Rehabilitative alimony is typically awarded to the spouse that has been filling the role of the homemaker and raising children.
Permanent alimony continues for a long period of time and can last up until the death of the party receiving the payments. This is typically only awarded to a spouse that is unable to work due to age, or physical/ mental illness.
The Pennsylvania Legislature determines alimony payments based on a list of 17 subjective criteria. The most compelling criteria, other than school costs is the argument that there is an “unmet need.” This is the amount by which the plaintiff’s budgetary expenses exceed his or her net monthly income. Still, every case is different and highly fact-specific. In order to ensure you are receiving the correct support, consulting the help of an experienced family lawyer can extremely beneficial.