In Pennsylvania, there are three types of payment one spouse can seek from the other in relation to separation or divorce. The first is termed “spousal support,” which is ordered prior to the commencement of a divorce, before a suit for divorce is even filed. It can be requested once the parties are separated and stop living together, and ends when a divorce decree is issued. The second type is termed “alimony pendente lite,” which can be requested and ordered by the court once a petition for divorce is filed. It also ends when a divorce decree is issued. The third type is termed “alimony,” which can only be awarded, as the court deems reasonable, after or at the time of a final divorce decree. In order to award alimony to a spouse, the court must find the payments to be necessary.

It’s also important to know that any payments made for alimony are separate from payments made for child support. It’s important to pay child support as required by the court due to the nature of the child custody agreement.

How Do You Qualify for Alimony?

In deciding whether alimony is necessary, and in order to determine the amount, duration, and schedule of payments, the court will consider a number of relevant factors. It will take into account income (and source of income such as retirement benefits), earning capacities, age, health, inheritances, length of the marriage, contribution of one spouse to the education and training of the other, obligations and decreased earning capacity either spouse may incur as custodian to a minor child, standard of living during marriage, time it will take for the recipient spouse to acquire education and training necessary to become self-supporting, any assets and debts, contributions as a homemaker, relevant needs of either spouse, tax consequences, and marital misconduct.

How Much Alimony Can You Receive?

Pennsylvania law does not provide a limitation or cap on the amount of alimony that can be awarded to a former spouse. Instead, in determining alimony, the court will weigh the factors discussed above.  

Alimony awards can vary in amounts, and, depending on where you stand in this area of contention, can be deemed insufficient or excessive (it is estimated that alimony awards can run upwards of $1.3 million a year in the U.S.). Again, because the court must find alimony to be necessary, and there is no set formula for determining it, it is important to protect yourself by hiring a lawyer. 

How Long Does Alimony Last?

The court can order that alimony last for a specified or indefinite length of time, so long as the duration is reasonable under the circumstances. If the recipient spouse remarries, or either spouse dies, alimony will automatically terminate.

Spousal support and alimony pendente lite last only while a divorce action is pending and end when a divorce decree is issued.

How Do You Petition for Alimony?

A lawyer can help you during the difficult time of separation and divorce by making sure you do not inadvertently waive your right to funds from your spouse while your divorce is pending and afterward. The court will not know if you are in need of spousal support, alimony pendente lite, or alimony, unless you ask. It is therefore best to work with a lawyer from the onset to discuss all your options and properly file the paperwork in the beginning, such as with your divorce petition or beforehand if you are separated. There is no guarantee for retroactive payments when it comes to alimony and spousal support.

Where Can You Find the Right Lawyer?

The issue of alimony is a highly contentious, variable area of divorce. It is crucial to protect yourself, as well as your current and future financial situation. If you are considering separating from your spouse or filing for divorce, or you have been served with divorce papers, get expert help and contact your local Pennsylvania family lawyer today.