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In Pennsylvania, to change an alimony order, you need to show a “material and substantial change in circumstances.”  Many times, getting a new job will count as a “material and substantial change,” and can lead to a change in alimony.  Whether you are getting or paying alimony, a big job change might be enough to modify alimony.  To file for alimony changes, make sure to talk to an experienced Philadelphia divorce lawyer.  The family law attorneys at the Sadek and Cooper Law Offices are always looking to help clients with alimony changes.

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When Can a New Job Change Alimony in PA?

As mentioned, Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1910.19 requires parties show a “material and substantial change in circumstances” before they can get an alimony order changed.  Most of the factors a court considers when deciding alimony deal with finances and each party’s ability to support themselves.  What job someone has is important to at least four of the 17 alimony factors in Pennsylvania.

For a change to be “material and substantial,” it needs to be somewhat big.  If you change jobs, but continue to get paid the same, that job change probably will not be “material.”  The same goes for if you are promoted or demoted, but only have a small change to your wages.  To be “substantial,” the change really needs to make an impact on your budget, your ability to support yourself, or your lifestyle.

Whether the payor or payee of the alimony changes jobs, either side could potentially ask for an alimony modification.  The following chart shows what kind of change in job can result in what kind of alimony change.  Keep in mind that the “payor” is the one who pays alimony, and the “payee” is the recipient.

Payor Payee
Takes higher-paying job Payee can ask for increased alimony Payor can ask for decreased alimony
Takes lower-paying job Payor can ask for decreased alimony Payee can ask for increased alimony

In general, when the other side gets a better job, you can get a better deal on alimony.  If you get a better job, the other side may be entitled to a better deal on alimony.

This may leave some people thinking that if they intentionally take a lower-paying job, they could get a benefit.  For instance, a payee might think that taking a lower-paying job means they will get higher alimony payments.  A payor might think that taking a lower-paying job means they will have to pay less alimony.

This kind of intentional action is frowned-upon by courts.  Judges do not want to see people cheating the system or turning it into a game of “how much alimony can I get” or “how little alimony can I pay.”  Besides, many of the factors look at each party’s potential income or potential to get employment, not actual employment.  In an extreme example, if a doctor quits medicine and takes a job at McDonalds, the court will still expect that they can make as much money as a doctor and might not change alimony.

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How to Modify Alimony in PA

Changing alimony can be simple if both parties can come to an agreement.  Not every divorce leaves the parties on good terms.  In many divorces, though, changing alimony can be as simple as getting the lawyers from each party in a room to discuss the changes, and getting a judge to sign-off on the changes.

In other cases, you may need to go to court to get the changes made.  In many cases, the judge orders alimony.  To change alimony, you need a judge to change the order.  That means taking your evidence of a changed circumstance (like a new job) to court, filing motions, and convincing the judge to change the order.

In any case, it is very important that you continue to follow the order until the judge changes it.  Do not resort to self-help.  Just because you got a new job does not automatically entitle you to a change in alimony.  Failing to follow a court order could result in contempt charges, which can mean fines, garnered wages, and even jail time.

The best way to ensure your alimony order is changed in the way that best protects your goals and interests is to hire an attorney.  Our family lawyers are experienced in dealing with alimony orders and changed circumstances, and they know how to get you the changes you want.

Contact a PA Family Law Lawyer for Alimony Changes

The Philadelphia alimony lawyers at the Sadek & Cooper Law Offices know the ins and outs of alimony, and can help you get the changes you want.  Whether you are looking for an increase in your alimony or a decrease in your payments, call us today for a free consultation at (215) 625-0851.