Unfortunately, divorce is a common occurrence in the United States. In the state of Pennsylvania, there were nearly 33,000 divorces in 2017.
Among marriages lasting five years or less, roughly 21 percent end in divorce. Even marriages of 30-plus years are ending in divorce by the thousands.
Many failing marriages stay together due to financial concerns from both parties. One of the most common financial concerns is alimony payments. This is especially true for couples in which one partner earns significantly more income than the other.
Read on to learn more about alimony in PA. Explore the rules that govern the alimony process and how payments are calculated by the state.
What Is Alimony?
Before diving into Pennsylvania law, it is important to understand exactly what alimony is. Alimony is a concept designed to fairly support both individuals as they separate into two households.
Often in a marriage, there is one partner that earns more money than the other. In some cases, the income disparity is so high that one individual may find it difficult to make ends meet.
This income disparity is likely caused by major decisions made in the course of a marriage. Perhaps the wife decides to stay home raising children while her husband pursues a lucrative career.
It would be unfair to dissolve the marriage without some form of equitable adjustment. Therefore, the court weighs a combination of many factors to level the playing field.
This judicial decision by the state leads to one individual making monthly support payments to another. These monthly payments are referred to as alimony.
What Factors Are Considered for Alimony in PA?
The presiding judge will weigh a number of different factors to determine alimony payments. The most obvious factor is the income generated by each individual.
However, there are other major considerations. For example, the court will consider the education of both parties.
This includes future education or training needs to help earn a living wage. The court will investigate whether one partner financially supported the other partner while they pursued a college degree. Education level is also important for determining the job prospects of a stay-at-home parent.
Another factor to consider is the standard of living of the married couple. Perhaps the supported spouse has a paid membership in a club that benefits the children. The monthly bills of each individual are considered by the court.
Income taxes are taken into account as well. Any additional child support or alimony payments are also factors.
There are a number of other qualitative factors considered. For instance, the physical and mental health of both individuals will be assessed.
Lastly, a significant factor in alimony calculations is the length of the marriage. Longer marriages will naturally result in a longer period of spousal support.
What Are the Different Types of Alimony?
There are two different types of alimony. The most obvious form of alimony is spousal support. This sets into motion after the divorce is finalized for a duration set by the judge.
The second type of alimony is called pendente lite. This form of alimony is designed to support a separated individual in the time period before the divorce is final. There are a number of conditions that must be met for the court to approve pendente lite alimony.
What Can You Expect to Pay?
There is no magic formula to calculate monthly alimony payments. This is because it is a negotiation process between competing attorneys. Also, there are so many different variables that are considered during negotiations.
To benefit the discussion, we refer to the two parties as the receiving and paying spouse. The receiving spouse could receive between 30 to 40 percent of the paying spouse’s income. This number decreases based on the receiving spouse’s income potential.
If the paying spouse is making child support payments, the alimony payment percentage decreases. The same is true if the paying spouse is still making alimony payments to another former spouse. If children and other alimony payments are factored in, the ceiling for alimony payments is likely 30 percent.
The income share will grow if the separating couple does not have any dependent children.
When Does Alimony End?
There is no specific law on the books in Pennsylvania to determine alimony length. This is another subjective ruling based on a number of factors brought up in court.
A rule of thumb of one year of alimony for every three years of marriage is commonly referred to. However, this is just a rough estimate and subject to legal consideration.
The objective of alimony is to buy time for the receiving spouse to gain financial independence. For some, this means going back to school or seeking professional training.
For others, it means securing a job and working their way up the corporate ladder. The length of alimony is going to be a subjective decision from the judge. The judge will assess the various factors in an attempt to predict when this independence will occur.
Certain life changes have an impact on alimony length. Alimony payments terminate if the receiving spouse gets remarried. Another termination event is if the receiving spouse moves in with a member of the opposite sex.
Death is another obvious trigger for alimony to terminate. However, the court could order payments to continue if the paying spouse dies.
There are conditions in which a court orders alimony payments to be permanent. A common example of this is when the receiving spouse is disabled and unable to pursue a job.
Alimony in PA – Wrapping It Up
Divorce places significant mental anguish on both parties. In most cases, however, one party is set to face financial challenges as well.
The alimony system is designed to level the playing field and keep both parties afloat. Estimating payments for alimony in PA is not an easy task.
As we described above, various factors are considered to arrive at a monthly payment amount. Things like income potential and marriage length are assessed by the presiding judge. If you want to learn more about alimony in PA, please contact us to schedule a consultation today.