A person’s post-divorce economic outlook often hinges on decisions made during the divorce proceedings. Pennsylvania laws provide mandatory guidelines for spousal support. These guidelines do not, however, guarantee that each spouse will receive a fair settlement or ruling.
It is crucial that you have a legal advocate to represent your best interests throughout the process. Our focus is on offering realistic resolutions that will best position you for a successful post-divorce outlook. We understand there are many questions involved in a divorce. We have provided the information below to better help you understand the available options.
An Overview of the Types of Spousal Support Available
Pennsylvania law establishes categories of financial assistance paid from one spouse to another during or after the divorce proceedings. The categories are:
- Alimony – Monetary payments made from one spouse to another after the finalization of a divorce. These typically are to be paid on an established schedule and for an agreed-upon sum. It is established in 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3701.
- Spousal support (or alimony pendente lite) – Payments made from one spouse to another during the separation period of the divorce or after the divorce proceedings have started (pendente lite means ‘pending the litigation’ in Latin). This may also be referred to as maintenance. It is established in 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3702.
Though the terms “alimony” and “spousal support” sometimes are used interchangeably, state laws prohibit simultaneous orders for spousal support and alimony pendente lite.
Pennsylvania’s Spousal Support Guidelines
Among the key points addressed in the state’s Spousal Support Guidelines:
- Timing – The Court will consider the duration of your marriage. This is intended to prevent cases where a short-term marriage results in a long-term financial commitment from one spouse to another.
- Reasonableness – The Court is instructed to treat similarly situated people in a similar manner. Awards are to be determined based on each spouse’s reasonable needs, as well as the payer’s ability to provide payment.
- Income – The Court must use the net income of each party when calculating a fair sum for spousal support.
- Special circumstances – The Court must consider those extenuating circumstances that may impact a party’s financial obligations.
- Self-Support Reserve – Generally speaking, a spousal support arrangement must leave the paying spouse with a net monthly income of at least $931 as of August 2013. This is designed to protect low-income individuals in the event of a divorce.
Further, 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3701 describes 17 factors considered to determine amount and duration of alimony payments, including:
- earnings and earning capacities of spouses;
- ages and health of spouses;
- duration of marriage;
- contribution by one party to another’s education;
- standard of living during marriage;
- assets and liabilities of the spouses;
- contribution of spouse as homemaker;
- marital misconduct of either spouse; and
A family law attorney can evaluate your case to determine how these various factors will impact the spousal support arrangement in your divorce.