Spousal Maintenance and the Options
On average, there are more than 35,000 divorces and annulments each year in Pennsylvania. That results in thousands of new people annually who may be entitled to some form of spousal support. In this state, there’s no entitlement, and whether a person receives support is solely up to the discretion of the court.
Is Alimony Limited to Women?
No, it is not. Whether a person is or is not entitled to support is not based on gender. While alimony has traditionally been money paid from an ex-husband to an ex-wife, this is an outdated notion. Men can receive support from women, and support applies to same-sex marriages as well. Statistically, men are less likely to receive support, and there may be many reasons for this, including:
• Traditional gender stereotypes
• Women being more willing to contest it
• Judges influenced by unconscious biases
Can a Prenuptial Agreement Affect Postmarital Support?
If a state allows a prenuptial agreement to dictate spousal support or allow the right to such support to be waived, then yes. In these instances, entitlement – or lack of – is dictated by the contract that both parties have agreed to, and judges are unlikely to overrule that without extenuating circumstances.
What Is Rehabilitative Support?
Rehabilitative support is also called durational support, which means that payments are made for a certain period. Often, a judge will determine that one spouse is not required to maintain the other’s lifestyle forever but just long enough for that person to become self-sufficient up to that level. This kind of support is also often awarded to stay-at-home parents, and the duration of such cases is often until the youngest child becomes 18 years old. Just because support has a termination date doesn’t necessarily mean it ends then. The decision can still be reviewed and amended by the courts.
What Is Permanent Support?
Permanent support is when one spouse pays spousal support until he/she or the other spouse passes. Awarding permanent support means that the judge deemed that one spouse is responsible for maintaining the other’s lifestyle forever. This is often reserved for marriages longer than seven years and when a spouse played a considerable role in helping the other achieve his/her success. It’s possible for permanent support to be terminated or suspended, such as when the spouse receiving support marries or even cohabitates with another.
What Is Lump-Sum Support?
Lump-sum support is a fixed amount paid from one spouse to the other, and it usually has no restrictions regarding situation, such as remarriage, cohabitation or self-sufficiency. Such agreements and decisions are often in lieu of a property settlement. Lump-sum support can also be used to ensure that a certain amount of money is paid to a spouse’s estate after his/her passing.
What Is Temporary Support?
Although rehabilitative or durational support is temporary in a sense, it’s not the same thing as temporary spouse maintenance. Such support is common when a couple separates on a trial basis or have separated but not yet finalized the process. Such support can be an agreement made between the spouses and not involving the courts at all. If the agreement is filed in court, a judge will determine if the agreement is fair and may adjust it as he/she sees fit.
Are There Tax Ramifications?
Yes. The U.S. federal government views spouse maintenance as income. The spouse paying that income is therefore generally allowed to use that payment as a deduction. The spouse receiving that income, on the other hand, must pay income taxes as with any other source of income earned.
Get the Legal Assistance You Need Today
If you’re faced with the prospect of paying or receiving spousal maintenance due to a separation or divorce, assistance from an attorney that focuses on Pennsylvania family law can make a big difference. Joanne Kleiner & Associates has handled many such cases, so contact us today online or by calling our office in Jenkintown at (215) 886-1266.