Practice Areas - Alimony
W hile the purpose of spousal support/apl is to financially assist the dependent spouse prior to the entry of the divorce decree, alimony is support paid to a spouse after the entry of the decree. There are common misconceptions about alimony. People often believe that there is a rule entitling an ex-spouse to one year of alimony for every three years of marriage. No such rule exists. Moreover, while there is alimony in Pennsylvania, it is discretionary and the determination of whether it is awarded, in what amount and for what duration is subject to the application of seventeen factors, delineated below.
The law provides that the court may award alimony if it finds that alimony is necessary.1 The seventeen factors that are relevant in determining whether alimony is necessary and in determining the nature, amount, duration and manner of payment are as follows2:
- The relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties;
- The ages and the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the parties;
- The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits;
- The expectancies and inheritances of the parties;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party;
- The extent to which the earning power, expenses or financial obligations of a party will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child;
- The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;
- The relative education of the parties and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment;
- The relative assets and liabilities of the parties;
- The property brought to the marriage by either party;
- The contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
- The relative needs of the parties;
- The marital misconduct of either of the parties during the marriage. The marital misconduct of either of the parties from the date of final separation shall not be considered by the court in its determinations relative to alimony, except that the court shall consider the abuse of one party by the other party;
- The Federal, State and local tax ramifications of the alimony award;
- Whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property, including, but not limited to, property distributed under Chapter 35 (relating to property rights), to provide for the party’s reasonable needs; and
- Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment.
Since alimony is discretionary, whether alimony is awarded, its duration and amount are also dependent on the value and division of the marital estate, the master and/or judge who hears the case and the parties themselves. If it is awarded, it usually will not be for an amount greater than the amount of spousal support or apl.
Generally, alimony is awarded for one of three purposes. One purpose is to provide the dependent ex-spouse (the one who is receiving the alimony) with income while he/she obtains the education, training, skills and/or experience necessary to obtain appropriate employment and meet his/her reasonable needs. This is sometimes referred to as “rehabilitative alimony”. “Permanent alimony” may be awarded if one of the parties is not expected to ever be able to work. Disability or long-term illness would fall into this category. The third purpose is sometimes referred to as “compensatory alimony” or “equitable reimbursement” and may be awarded if the distribution of the assets of the marital estate is insufficient to effectuate “economic justice”. It can also be awarded to an ex-spouse resulting from his/her contributions to the education or training of the other spouse. Alimony terminates upon death, the remarriage or cohabitation of the party receiving the alimony.
Spousal support, apl and alimony are tax deductible by the obligor/payor and must be claimed as income by the obligee/payee.
1 Citing 23 Pa.C.S.A. 3701(a)
2 Quoting 23 Pa.C.S.A. 3701(b)