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How Alimony is Changing in Pennsylvania Divorces

SuperLawyers

How Alimony is Changing in Pennsylvania Divorces

Even highly-paid Senators don’t always feel like they can afford alimony. Alimony, or spousal support, remains one of the most controversial issues in family law.

So it’s no surprise that laws and attitudes are changing in Pennsylvania. And while it’s still possible to get alimony in our state (many states are attempting to abolish it altogether), it’s important to keep an eye on what’s changed so these changes may be factored into your divorce strategy.

See also: Can You Go to Jail for Failing to Pay Spousal Support in Pennsylvania?

Formulas Have Been Revised

In 2017 the Trump Administration enacted the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. This act made a large impact on family law because it prohibited alimony payers from deducting their payments from their taxes.

On December 28, 2018 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court entered new guidelines which took this law, and its financial impact on alimony payers, into account. The new guidelines lower payment amounts.

While this is because an alimony payout, stripped of its tax benefits, costs more, it also means that payers get a better deal in Pennsylvania than they used to get under the old law, unless child support is also required. When child support payments are taken into account, payers don’t see much change between what they’d pay now and what they’d have paid under the old law.

Attorneys must now take these shifts into account when they’re advocating for either the payer or the payee in divorce negotiations.

See also: New Law Calls for New Spousal Support Strategy.

Abuse Plays a Larger Role

In October of 2018 the Governor signed a new bill into law which modified Domestic Relations Code (23 PA C.S) to read as follows:

“Except where the court finds that an order for alimony pendente lite or spousal support is necessary to prevent manifest injustice, a party who has been convicted of committing a personal injury crime against the other party shall not be entitled to spousal support or alimony pendente lite. Any amount paid by the injured party after the commission of the offense but before the conviction of the other party shall be recoverable by the injured party upon petition.” 

This has been called one of the most impactful laws to be passed last year. It certainly solves a problem that has been in the media, wherein abused spouses who happened to make more money than their abusers ended up tied to him or her for life by being forced to pay alimony in response to laws which did not take domestic violence into account.

This is a highly positive development for abuse victims, but it also means that there is a larger financial motive for false accusations of domestic violence to enter divorce cases. Savvy attorneys will have to be on the look-out for such tactics, and abused spouses will have to be very careful to gather adequate evidence of abusive behavior in order to strengthen their claim.

Alimony is Falling Out of Favor in Some Courtrooms

Lifelong alimony is under particular scrutiny. But even short-term alimony requests are being treated with some suspicion in courtrooms across the country. This suspicion is even aimed at people who gave up careers to stay at home with the children for decades.

That’s not to say you can’t get alimony, but it does inform strategy. It means that if you’re a person who might need alimony to get back on your feet then it might be smarter to negotiate a smaller, limited, lump-sum payment that lets you develop a strategy for moving forward. It might also mean that it might be smart to sidestep the issue of alimony in favor of taking home a greater share of the marital property.

See also: When Can You End a Lifetime Spousal Support Award?

Don’t make these decisions alone.

Every case is different, and every judge is different. Successfully deciding which strategies are right for you will mean a long conversation with your divorce attorney.

 

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Sadek and Cooper Law Offices, LLC