Pennsylvania law requires a divorcing couple to divide their marital property in a way that meets guidelines of fairness under state law. This doesn’t necessarily mean an equal division. Sometimes, even splitting the marital property down the middle would leave one party at a financial disadvantage.
In these situations, a Pennsylvania court may choose to order alimony.
Alimony is simply financial support that one ex-spouse pays to the other. This may come in the form of payments on a regular basis, or in a lump-sum payment. It can be temporary or permanent.
In some cases, the parties themselves decide to make alimony a part of their divorce settlement. In others, the courts order one party to pay alimony.
When Pennsylvania courts are deciding whether alimony is necessary, and if so, how much is necessary, they consider a list of factors, including:
- The income and earning capacity of the individuals
- The parties’ health and age
- The duration of the marriage
- The standard of living during the marriage
- The assets of both parties
- The financial needs of both parties
- Child custody issues
These are just some of the factors courts analyze. Alimony orders may be temporary or permanent, depending on the circumstances.
A common alimony scenario involves one spouse who gave up a career in order to care for the couple’s children. Even after a divorce settlement, the stay-at-home spouse faces a financial disadvantage. Their ex-spouse can continue to make money as during the marriage, but the stay-at-home spouse must restart their career after being out of the job market for several years, often at a lower wage.
In such a case, the court might order alimony just long enough for the disadvantaged spouse to get an advanced degree or otherwise prepare themselves to become financially independent.
In cases where the disadvantaged spouse is disabled or has some other issue making a new career impossible, the court may decide that permanent alimony is in order.
Courts look at alimony on a case-by-case basis and the decisions will turn on the exact circumstances of every case.
Experienced attorneys can explain how the law would apply to their client’s unique set of circumstances and help them consider their options and whether alimony is an appropriate part of their divorce.