A Brief Explanation of the Different Types of Alimony
Although everything is rarely split right down the middle in a divorce, the process almost always breaks apart most, if not all, aspects of spouses’ lives. According to a 2013 U.S. Census Bureau publication, 93.4% of the 1.8 million Americans who provide alimony to their former romantic partners or spouses are men. Of the $18.3 billion given to ex-partners or ex-spouses as court-ordered financial support, the mean and median annual amounts were $5,154 and $9,958, respectively.
All Alimony Eventually Boils Down to This
No matter what type of alimony you’re ordered to pay, it’s still alimony. Alimony, like all elements of divorce, is highly situationally dependent. In other words, alimony payments won’t just depend on your income.
The purpose of alimony is to support your ex-spouse’s lifestyle following a divorce. As you’ll learn throughout this article, different types of alimony serve different purposes. All of them, however, force someone to make regular payments to his or her ex-spouse.
A Precursor — Understanding Divorce and Legal Separation
Before diving into these three types of alimony, it’s important to understand the differences between divorce and legal separation.
As you may know, courts use marriages to officially recognize partners as full-fledged spouses. Marriages create legal obligations and rights for spouses, including the choice to file income taxes as married filing jointly. The IRS actually encourages married couples to file jointly by offering them several tax credits, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit.
Similar to how courts legally recognize marriage, courts also formally recognize divorce as the immediate, permanent dissolution of marriage. Although alimony can be an upside or a downside, depending on which side you’re on, divorce comes with downsides, such as potentially having the responsibility to make financial support payments to your soon-to-be ex-spouse.
In terms of legal recognition, Pennsylvania courts don’t care whether you’re engaged to or dating someone. Conversely, splitting from your spouse without getting divorced does, in fact, hold legal weight in some states. This alternative to divorce is known as legal separation.
Pennsylvania, however, doesn’t have laws that recognize legal separation. The Quaker State allows spouses to create separation agreements that have many of the same functions as divorces without actually getting divorced.
Some of these functions include splitting property, creating co-parenting schedules, determining alimony payments, calculating child support obligations, and establishing who’s responsible for paying bills and outstanding debts.
Now that you understand the difference between legal separation and divorce, we can review the three different types of alimony recognized by the Keystone State: spousal support, alimony and alimony pendente lite.
Unlike alimony or alimony pendente lite, spousal support is the only type of alimony that requires legal separation to be involved. Although courts want both spouses to support themselves, judges grant spousal support to dependent spouses to help them get on their feet.
Spousal support is available after you’ve formally filed a separation agreement and up until you or your spouse file for divorce. It doesn’t matter who files for divorce. As such, this form of financial support ends whether you or your spouse files for divorce.
Pennsylvania courts use a complex formula, which is found under 231 Pa. Code § 1910.16-4, to calculate the dollar amount of spousal support owed.
Alimony Pendente Lite
After spousal support eligibility ends, the dependent spouse can receive alimony pendente lite, which translates from Latin into English as “alimony pending litigation.”
This type of court-ordered financial support begins after a spouse has filed a divorce complaint and ends after the divorce is finalized.
Alimony pendente lite helps dependent spouses keep their proverbial heads above water throughout the divorce process. It also gives them the chance to properly defend themselves in court by hiring a divorce lawyer. Alimony pendente lite is calculated with the same formula that’s mentioned above. It’s just as long, and arguably too complex, for any non-attorney to understand.
This is the alimony you probably had in mind before reading this article. In Pennsylvania, judges award alimony to dependent spouses to lighten the financial load of transitioning to pre-marriage life.
Although exceptions exist, alimony usually doesn’t break the better-off spouse’s bank. Judges strive to be reasonable when determining whether dependent spouses should receive ongoing financial support and, if so, what amount.
Lastly, there isn’t a time limit for alimony payments. Still, you shouldn’t expect to make monthly alimony payments indefinitely. Court-ordered spousal financial support usually won’t last more than a few years.
If you’re anticipating a divorce or legal separation, you can’t go wrong by contacting the Law Office of Joanne Kleiner of Jenkintown at (215) 886-1266. The firm’s sole practitioner, the well-tenured divorce lawyer, Joanne Kleiner, has more than 42 years of legal experience. You can also reach us by filling out our website’s contact form.