If your marriage is in trouble and you are considering filing for divorce, one of your concerns, whether you are a working or stay-at-home spouse, is whether alimony will be part of the divorce decree. Though alimony is nowhere near as common as it used to be, with both spouses working in most marriages, the court still has the discretion to require that one party pay the other a monthly allowance, and that can take a number of forms.
The first thing to understand is that Pennsylvania makes a distinction between spousal support and alimony. Spousal support is paid before a divorce is final and alimony is paid after a divorce decree is entered. Spousal support can be ordered, even if no divorce complaint has been filed. Once a complaint is filed, the court typically enters an alimony pendent lite order, or alimony “while the divorce action is pending.”
The Criteria for Determining Whether Alimony is Warranted
In Pennsylvania, the courts will consider a number of factors to when making the decision whether to grant alimony, including:
- The earning potential and capacity of both parties
- The age and health of the parties
- How long the parties have been married
- The standard of living to which the parties were accustomed during the marriage
- Any contribution that one party made to the earning capacity of the other—paying for college education or job training, for example
- The relative assets and liabilities of the parties
- The contribution of a spouse as homemaker
- Any marital misconduct or fault, such as infidelity
The Duration of Alimony in Pennsylvania
In general, the courts can order alimony for a specific period of time, with a designated end date, or until the court changes the order. Typically, an alimony order will end if the recipient remarries or cohabitates with a person of the opposite sex who is not a family member. It will also terminate if either party dies.