Alimony is a monthly payment made after a divorce is final to help former spouses meet their expenses. It is not awarded in every divorce filed under Pennsylvania law, but it is becoming more common than it was in the past. Still, Pennsylvania has resisted efforts to make alimony automatic in each case, and the law refers to alimony as a secondary remedy. Spouses who do not have sufficient income or property to support themselves may turn to alimony to pay reasonable living expenses, finance a college education or vocational training or afford special needs. The Pittsburgh alimony lawyers at Pollock Begg Komar Glasser & Vertz LLC address alimony claims with skill and care when representing clients in divorce proceedings.
Who pays alimony in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, alimony means monthly payments made to support a former spouse after the divorce has been completed and the marital property has been divided. Alimony is different from spousal support, which refers to payments made when spouses are separated, or alimony pendente lite, which is paid while the divorce litigation is ongoing.
Why do Pennsylvania courts grant alimony?
Alimony may serve one or more purposes. Permanent alimony provides a stable income to a dependent spouse who is unemployable due to advanced age, disability, or lack of education and work experience. Periodic alimony may be warranted when a dependent spouse or his or her custodial children have unmet needs. Rehabilitative alimony enables a dependent spouse whose education or career was disrupted by the marriage to return to school or retrench into a career. Reimbursement alimony compensates a dependent spouse who supported the family while the other spouse earned a professional degree or built a successful family business.
How is alimony calculated?
In Pennsylvania, alimony is regarded as a secondary remedy awarded in cases where the division of marital property does not provide sufficient economic resources to enable a dependent spouse to achieve self-support through appropriate employment. In determining whether a spouse should receive alimony, the court must focus on a list of 17 factors promulgated in the divorce code. Of foremost significance are the dependent spouse’s reasonable needs, income and earning capacity. The court must consider the parties’ assets, including marital property received in equitable distribution. Even when a dependent spouse receives the lion’s share of marital property, the court may award alimony to provide sufficient income to meet reasonable needs. The needs of the custodial children also must be considered.
What special factors may be considered?
Several of the statutory factors relate to the income and employability of the parties. If the husband was a sole shareholder of a corporation and there was evidence of manipulation and control of assets and income, the court looks to corporate earnings, not merely personal income, as the true reflection of the husband’s earning capacity. On the other hand, the age, health, education and work experience of the dependent spouse may hinder employability and/or ability to accumulate retirement funds. A dependent spouse is not required to accept any employment, but only appropriate employment consistent with standard of living and station in life. As with property distribution, the court must consider the income tax ramifications of the alimony award. Other factors enumerated in the Divorce Code contemplate the equities of the case, including the parties’ respective contributions to property acquisition or increased earning power, their standard of living, duration of the marriage and marital misconduct. The parties’ standard of living during the marriage is probative to determine the dependent spouse’s reasonable needs.
Weighing these factors and presenting compelling evidence during court proceedings or settlement negotiations is an important part of a Pennsylvania divorce proceeding. Pollock Begg lawyers are trained to understand the law and nuances of alimony claims in order to develop a litigation strategy that will further the client’s goals.
Call our office today to discuss your situation with an experienced Pittsburgh alimony attorney and find a solution that best fits your needs and protects your future.