Adultery and Alimony in Pennsylvania

Woman carrying a bag of groceriesThough all states now recognize “no-fault” divorce, where parties can dissolve a marriage without any showing of wrongdoing, Pennsylvania is one of a few states that still allows a person to file an “at-fault” divorce proceeding. The principal reason for doing so? A finding of fault can provide advantage to the innocent party when it comes to custody and visitation, the division of marital property and whether or not the court decides to grant alimony.

Under the laws of Pennsylvania, a finding that a spouse engaged in an adulterous relationship is a legitimate basis for a finding of fault in a divorce proceeding. Pennsylvania defines adultery as voluntary sexual intercourse with someone other than a spouse. So what is the impact of a finding of adultery on whether or not the innocent party is entitled to alimony?

It’s important to understand that a grant of alimony is entirely within the discretion of the court. Pennsylvania law allows the judge to consider a wide range of factors, from the age and health of both parties to the income/income potential of both parties. The court can also base a decision to grant spousal support on whether there was “marital misconduct.” That can cut both ways.

If you can show that the adultery of your spouse caused the end of your marriage, you may be entitled to support from your unfaithful spouse. The court may, however, consider the adultery as only one of a number of factors and ultimately decide either to grant or deny alimony. On the other hand, if your spouse seeks alimony in a divorce proceeding, and you can show that he or she was unfaithful, the court will typically deny any request for alimony.

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