Philadelphia Alimony Lawyer
Alimony is governed by Section 3701 of the Pennsylvania Divorce Code and is simply another term for spousal support. Alimony normally takes the forms of regular payments that one spouse makes to the other in order to provide financial support during and or after a divorce. Alimony may be agreed upon by the spouses either before, during, or after the marriage. Those who are considering marriage or who are going through a divorce are entitled to three different types of support orders by the courts: spousal support, alimony pendent lite, and alimony.
The general rule under section 3701 of the Pennsylvania Divorce code is that where a divorce decree has been entered the court may allow alimony as it deems reasonable. This provides the presiding judge with a considerable amount of latitude to determine the amount of alimony one spouse may have to pay to the other. Unlike alimony pendente lite, which is granted during the time a divorce is being finalized, alimony is granted only upon a final decree of divorce.
Understanding the Factors of Spousal Support
While the general rule concerning alimony grants the judge a considerable degree of freedom to grant alimony and to determine how much alimony one spouse should have to pay the other, the judge is bound to follow seventeen factors set forth in Section 3701 of the Pennsylvania Divorce Code. In order for the judge to make a proper determination regarding whether or not alimony is necessary, the nature of the alimony payments, how long the payments will last, and the manner in which alimony payments will be made the judge must base their order on the following factors:
(1) The relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties.
(2) The ages and the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the parties.
(3) The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits.
(4) The expectancies and inheritances of the parties.
(5) The duration of the marriage.
(6) The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party.
(7) The extent to which the earning power, expenses or financial obligations of a party will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child.
(8) The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage.
(9) The relative education of the parties and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment.
(10) The relative assets and liabilities of the parties.
(11) The property brought to the marriage by either party.
(12) The contribution of a spouse as homemaker.
(13) The relative needs of the parties.
(14) The marital misconduct of either of the parties during the marriage. The marital misconduct of either of the parties from the date of final separation shall not be considered by the court in its determinations relative to alimony, except that the court shall consider the abuse of one party by the other party. As used in this paragraph, “abuse” shall have the meaning given to it under section 6102 (relating to definitions).
(15) The Federal, State and local tax ramifications of the alimony award.
(16) Whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property, including, but not limited to, property distributed under Chapter 35 (relating to property rights), to provide for the party’s reasonable needs.
(17) Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment.
Because the judge must consider all of these factors to make their determination, it is also essential that the parties provide all of the relevant information to the court. In addition, these factors are often fiercely contested between the divorcing spouses. At Sadek and Cooper, we take the time to work closely with each and every one of our clients to understand all of the factors relevant to your case. We understand how emotionally draining and frustrating the process can be, and we will work to help you achieve a favorable outcome.
How Long Does Spousal Support Last?
When a couple receives a final order of divorce from the court, they often will state that they feel like they are now free to pursue their lives. Some will feel free from their former spouse, others will feel free to pursue other love interests, and others will report feeling free to pursue their careers. However, spousal support payments and alimony can be a constant reminder of your past.
When the court enters an order for alimony, they shall also determine how long the payments are meant to last. This means that the court may set a definite time for alimony payments, for example, the court may order for one spouse to pay the other spouse alimony payments for one year. However, the court may also enter an order prescribing an indefinite period of time for alimony payments.
As discussed above, there are seventeen factors a judge is required to consider before entering an order for alimony. It is always crucial to secure prompt and experienced legal counsel during divorce proceedings, settlement negotiations, and hearings to determine alimony.
Can Spousal Support be Modified or Terminated?
Per the terms of the Pennsylvania Divorce Code, alimony can either be granted for a definite period of time, or it can be granted for a specific amount of time. However, regardless of whether an order is granted for a specific amount of time or for life, there are certain events that can trigger the court to modify an order or to terminate an order.
The court may modify an alimony order if one of the parties circumstances change. This is common if the spouse receiving alimony suddenly receives a raise or obtains a new job with a substantially larger salary. This can also apply when a divorced spouse remarries, or alternatively if they become disabled. Notably, if the spouse who is receiving alimony remarries another this will terminate the paying spouses’ obligation to pay alimony.
Fortunately, Pennsylvania allows for spouses to agree on alimony payments, which means that the couple may choose to enter into mediation which upon completion has the same effect as going to court. This can offer couples a cost-effective way to either agree upon, modify, or change their alimony payments.
At Sadek & Cooper, we understand that there are a number of crucial differences between spousal support and other types of alimony payments. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. Call our primary Philadelphia law office at 215-814-0395
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.
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.
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.
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.