Alimony, also called “spousal support,” is money that a former spouse pays another to help take care of housing, food, clothing, and other day-to-day expenses. Alimony is usually awarded in divorces where one party supplied most of the income while they were married. Because Pennsylvania law sees it as unfair to provide a former spouse with too much or too little alimony, there are many factors that go into calculating alimony.
If you are receiving or paying alimony in Philadelphia, or you are going to start receiving or paying alimony, it is important to understand how it is calculated. If your alimony order is incorrect, or circumstances have changed since it was created, talk to an attorney. The Philadelphia divorce attorneys at The Sadek and Cooper Law Offices may be able to help you get the right kind of alimony order for your case.
Philadelphia Alimony Rules
Typically, alimony is only given when it is necessary. This often means that in divorces where both spouses worked and earned enough income to take care of themselves, alimony is usually unnecessary. In divorces where one spouse provided for the other, or where one was the primary caregiver for shared children, things are different. There, the spouse who cares for children or did not earn their own money may need time to get back on their feet, financially.
Alimony works to keep each spouse’s financial situation close to what it was during marriage. When couples become accustomed to a certain level of living, it would be unfair to suddenly make them change that. Without alimony, people may be afraid to seek a divorce against an abusive or unloving spouse for fear that they would lose, financially. Alimony helps prevent that situation.
Alimony is separate from child support and other financial issues of divorce. Child support is paid to the custodial parent to support the children, not for the parent to use for themselves. Alimony, on the other hand, is for the former spouse to spend on themselves. During divorce, the couple divides their shared assets equitably between them. What each party gets in this “equitable division” may factor into alimony, but it is also a separate issue.
The party who pays alimony is known as the “payor” or “obligor.” The party who receives alimony is known as the “payee” or “recipient.” Lastly, gender is not an automatic factor in determining alimony in PA.
Factors for Calculating Alimony in PA
Unlike child support, Pennsylvania’s laws have no formula for calculating spousal support. Instead, there are 17 factors that the courts use to decide whether a party needs alimony, and how much they need. The following factors are used to determine alimony payments:
- Earning capacities of each party
- Ages and condition of each party
- Sources of income
- Length of the marriage
- Contribution to the other party’s education or training
- Effect of a party caring for minor children
- Standard of living during the marriage
- Education and training of each party
- Assets and debts of each party
- Property owned before marriage by each party
- Contributions as a homemaker during the marriage
- Needs of each party
- Marital misconduct (e.g. abuse, adultery, etc.)
- Tax consequences
- Property distributed during the divorce
- Ability for the party requesting alimony to support him or herself
These elements can each affect the judge’s alimony order in either direction. For instance, if the payor will be caring for children while working, the payee may have more time to work and may receive less alimony. Alternatively, if the payee will care for children, their time to work will be limited, and they may need more alimony. Other factors work similarly to add or subtract alimony.
The financial factors are important in calculating income. Each party’s current income, along with their earning potential from education and training, shows how much money the court can work with in assigning alimony payments. Factors concerning lifestyle and needs help determine how much alimony is necessary to satisfy those factors. When all is said and done, courts generally work to arrive at a payment that is fair and satisfies these elements appropriately.
If you do not like the court’s calculation, you may be able to calculate your own alimony. Creating alimony agreements with the other party’s attorney helps you control your alimony and personalize it to your needs. An attorney can represent you in negotiations with your ex-spouse’s attorney and fight for an appropriate alimony order.
Philadelphia Divorce Attorneys
The Philadelphia family law attorneys at The Sadek & Cooper Law Offices may be able to take your alimony case. Our lawyers can represent you in negotiations with your former spouse, or take your alimony case to court. If you want alimony orders changed, we can also file for those modifications. Call 215-625-0851 today to schedule a free consultation on your alimony case.