Alimony is a recurring payment from one spouse to the other following a divorce in Pennsylvania. The courts consider the financial repercussions of each divorce on a case-by-case basis, and do not always find that alimony is appropriate. However, when alimony is awarded, it can gradually become a serious financial burden for the payor spouse. If you’re a Pennsylvania resident and your alimony payments are causing you financial hardship, it may be possible to have the order modified with assistance from the Philadelphia alimony lawyers of Sadek & Cooper Law Offices.
For What Reasons Would a Court Agree to Reduce Alimony in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania’s alimony laws are consolidated under Chapter 37 of Title 23 of the Pennsylvania Code. One of the statutes contained within Chapter 37, which you can find at 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3701, contains a provision for the modification, suspension, or even termination of alimony.
In accordance with 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3701(e), an existing alimony order is “subject to further order of the court upon changed circumstances of either party of a substantial and continuing nature,” in which case “the order may be modified, suspended, terminated or reinstituted or a new order made.” Phrased another way, what the statute is saying is that an alimony order can potentially be changed if the court finds that either the payor or recipient is experiencing major, ongoing changes to his or her financial circumstances.
With that information in mind, the next question becomes, “What sort of circumstances ‘count’ under the statute?” In other words, what are some situations that could cause an existing alimony order to be modified?
To reiterate, each situation must be reviewed by the court on a case-by-case basis. However, speaking generally, some possible reasons an existing alimony order could be modified include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The payor spouse has an involuntary reduction in income due to uncontrollable circumstances, like lay-offs.
- The payor spouse loses his or her home to a serious natural disaster.
- The payor spouse suffers a disabling injury or develops a debilitating illness, which can simultaneously burden the payor with medical bills while affecting his or her ability to earn income.
Conversely, improvements to the recipient spouse’s financial circumstances may also be grounds for an alimony modification in Pennsylvania. For instance, the court may agree to lower the payor’s alimony payments if the recipient spouse gets a substantial pay raise, or accepts a new job with a major pay increase.
The provision for modifying alimony in Pennsylvania applies to both parties, which means alimony can be reduced or increased as the court deems appropriate. However, it may not be necessary to go to court at all. If both parties are able to agree on how they feel the alimony plan should be changed (or established in the first place), they may opt under Pennsylvania law to resolve the issue via mediation, which tends to be a quicker and more cost-effective strategy, though not always appropriate.
More dramatic than the modification of alimony is its outright termination, another possibility the law allows for under the appropriate circumstances. In accordance with 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3701(e), alimony will be terminated if the recipient spouse gets remarried. Further, under 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3706, alimony will also be terminated if the recipient spouse starts living with a person of the opposite sex, other than a family member. Specifically, the statute states that no one “is entitled to receive an award of alimony… [if he or she] has entered into cohabitation with a person of the opposite sex who is not a member of the family of the petitioner within the degrees of consanguinity” (related by blood).
Other than the modification or termination of alimony, there are also a few additional possibilities. The law allows for alimony payments to be temporarily suspended, or for the court to create a new alimony order.
How to Have Alimony Payments Lowered in Pennsylvania
In order to modify alimony, it is necessary to file certain legal documents, such as a petition for the modification, suspension, or termination of an existing support order. The forms vary slightly from county to county, but you should be prepared to justify your request for the modification. Of course, your alimony lawyer will be there to help you with all of the legal forms and procedures.
To give you an example of what to expect, the form used in Philadelphia County features a section which states, “Petitioner is entitled to an increase/decrease/termination/modification (circle one) of this Order because of the following material change in circumstances,” before supplying space for the petitioner to explain. In this context, the word “material” means significant or important.
Philadelphia Alimony Attorneys Serving Bucks and Delaware County
If you are struggling to make your alimony payments because you lost a job, suffered an injury, or experienced other major changes to your financial circumstances, you should talk to a family law lawyer from Sadek & Cooper Law Offices about the legal options that may be available to you. It may be possible for our Bucks County alimony attorneys to help you have overwhelming alimony payments lowered to a more manageable, affordable level if they are causing you undue financial hardship.
To learn more about how our experienced divorce lawyers in Philadelphia can assist you with the establishment or modification of alimony, call Sadek & Cooper Law Offices at 215-814-0395 for a free legal consultation. We will keep your information confidential. We serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Bucks County, and Delaware County.