Understanding Alimony Laws in Pennsylvania

In most cases, divorcing couples have many questions regarding the process of marriage dissolution and its terms. One of them is “Does Pennsylvania have alimony?”. Yes, alimony in Pennsylvania is mandated and regulated by Title 23 of the PA Consolidated Statutes.

Alimony in PA is financial payments awarded by the court to one of the spouses before, during, or after the divorce. If parties can agree independently, they can decide on their own what its amount and duration will be.

Why do people have to pay alimony? It is not intended to enrich one spouse or to punish the other. Its main goal is to help parties who cannot support themselves financially. It can also be assigned to ensure equal conditions for raising children by both parents or to compensate part of the funds for the spouse who supported and took care of the family while the other party studied and improved their career prospects.

Given that determining the amount and duration of alimony in PA is a complex issue, in this article, we will analyze its main types along with factors affecting their appointment. In addition, we will answer the question, “How does alimony work in PA?” and whether it requires taxation.

Types of Alimony in Pennsylvania

There are actually two types of spousal maintenance in Pennsylvania. These are pendente lite and post-divorce alimony. In addition, there are two more forms of financial payments from one spouse to the other, which are also often referred to as alimony. These are spousal support and equitable distribution reimbursement. Let’s focus on each type in more detail.

Pendente Lite Alimony

Pendente lite alimony in PA is temporary financial support ordered by a judge for the period of a divorce process. Its purpose is to:

  1. Give an opportunity for one of the spouses to involve a lawyer or any other specialists, if needed, in the divorce process if they cannot do so on their own due to financial struggles.
  2. Provide one of the parties with additional income to ensure they can maintain the standard of living that the couple had during a marriage.

Paying pendente lite alimony stops as soon as spouses receive a divorce decree or turns into another type of financial payment ordered by the court. However, if the court awards you alimony before the divorce, there is no guarantee that it will surely be appointed after the marriage dissolution.

Post-Divorce Alimony

PA post-divorce alimony can be granted for several months or several years to the spouse who needs financial support after the divorce. Most often, courts award this type of maintenance for situations when one of the parties has been engaged in raising children for a long time and could not build a career as the other party did.

Either spouse can submit a post-divorce alimony request to the court. The main factor in considering its appointment will not be the gender of the parties who filed but their real necessity for support and the ability of the paying party to cover the needs of the other spouse financially.

The term for which the court will award alimony depends on many circumstances and the real impossibility of maintaining a decent standard of living. In most cases, the judge will order support for the time during which spouses can achieve self-sufficiency.

Spousal Support

Spousal support in PA is awarded by the court to those spouses who do not file for divorce but have legally separated. Financial support and pendente lite alimony cannot be appointed at the same time. If, after the legal separation, spouses decide to officially divorce and file papers with the court, spousal support is terminated. It serves to make sure that lower-income spouses can make the financial switch from married to single status.

How is spousal support calculated in PA? Judges calculate its amount using a specific formula, as stipulated by the current legislation. To compute the support, you must determine a certain percentage of each party’s income.

In childless couples, it is required to subtract 40% of the net monthly income of the spouse with lower income from 33% of the net monthly income of the spouse who gains more. If parties have minor children, these amounts change to 25% of the obligor’s net monthly income and 30% of the obligee’s net monthly income. Distinctive calculations are explained by the fact that if children are involved in the case, the party with a higher profit likely spends part of it for their maintenance.

Equitable Reimbursement

During a divorce, equitable distribution reimbursement for spending money will be appointed to the party who was the breadwinner and supported the family financially during the marriage while the other spouse was studying. Unlike alimony and spousal support, the purpose of equitable reimbursement is to compensate one spouse for expenses that were spent on married life while the other spouse received additional education to increase financial solvency and improve career prospects.

For this reason, it will not matter whether the receiving party needs support. This alimony is not intended to equalize the income level of both spouses; it is a kind of bonus for the party that temporarily supported the other financially.

When determining the amount of equitable reimbursement, the most important thing will be how much money one of the parties spent while the other was engaged in training. The total sum is usually divided into several periodic payments and is paid until the previously calculated reimbursement amount is fully compensated.

How Is Alimony Calculated in Pennsylvania?

If you are going to apply for spousal maintenance, it is clear that you may be very interested in knowing “How much alimony will I get in PA?”. However, this question is not that simple to answer due to the fact that each form of support is calculated taking into account different circumstances.

Since pendente lite alimony and spousal support have a similar purpose and differ only in the procedure during which they are appointed, judges use the same formula for their computation based on principles specified in Rule 1910.16-4 – Support Guidelines. The amount of temporary alimony may vary depending on both spouses’ income and whether or not they have minor children.

According to section 3701(b) of PA Consolidated Statutes, when determining the appropriateness, amount, and duration of financial support, courts will consider the following 17 Pennsylvania alimony factors:

  1. The opportunity of both spouses to earn and their income level.
  2. Age and physical and emotional state of health of each party.
  3. Duration of marriage.
  4. Additional sources of income that spouses have.
  5. Any inheritance that was already received by each spouse or may be obtained in the future.
  6. Financial contribution of either party to the education of the other.
  7. Child custody influence on the income of each spouse.
  8. Standard of living parties had during the marriage.
  9. Kind of education spouses already have and time they need to acquire the necessary knowledge for employment.
  10. All assets and liabilities that both parties have.
  11. Property contribution any of the spouses made during marriage.
  12. Contribution of either party as a housekeeper.
  13. Special and usual needs of both parties.
  14. Behavior of both spouses during the marriage.
  15. Tax consequences of the appointment of alimony for each party.
  16. Amount of property spouse requiring alimony owns.
  17. The inability of parties requesting alimony to support themselves.

In addition to the listed factors, judges may take into account other case-specific circumstances. Considering this fact, there is no single answer to the question “How is alimony calculated in PA?” if it is not spousal support or pendente lite alimony.

In some situations, you can ask the court to review and modify the amount of alimony ordered before. You may file a request to recalculate the financial support if such a change is not forbidden by the marital settlement agreement or court order.

Either spouse must provide compelling grounds for the previous decision to be reconsidered in order to apply to the court. These can be dismissal from work, retirement, or deterioration of health, due to which a party can no longer pay alimony to the other spouse. The court will schedule a hearing and review the case. If the judge considers such a request fair and appropriate, they will most likely modify the alimony order under the appearance of new circumstances.

Duration of Alimony Payments in Pennsylvania

You are unlikely to receive a predetermined response to the question “How long do you pay alimony in Pennsylvania?” because state courts consider a variety of factors when determining the time alimony will last in each case.

Judges may grant either spouse temporary or permanent financial support. What it will be may be influenced by the time required for one of the spouses to achieve a better financial position and the duration of the marriage.

How long do you have to be married to get alimony in PA? It is not possible to answer this question unequivocally since the assignment of alimony depends not only on how long you have lived together. In practice, judges more often assign financial payments when the parties have been married for at least 3 years. If the marriage lasted 10, 15, or 20 years, alimony will usually be higher than in cases with shorter marriages.

Lifetime alimony in PA is typically granted only when one spouse’s age or health prevents them from becoming financially independent.

When does alimony end? Spousal support finalizes when parties file for marriage dissolution, and pendente lite alimony ends when spouses obtain a divorce. The alimony order signed by a judge establishes the deadline for receiving further financial support. If parties determine the amount and duration of alimony in the marital agreement independently, then it will last as long as agreed.

However, sometimes financial payments end earlier than the time decided by spouses or ordered by the judge. The first case is the death of one of the parties. As per section 3707 of PA Consolidated Statutes, if the spouse receiving alimony dies, payments are stopped. If the party who pays the support dies, it finalizes if otherwise is not specified in the agreement or court order.

What else disqualifies you from alimony? Another factor that terminates alimony prematurely is remarriage.

Do You Have to Pay Alimony if Your Spouse Remarries?

Many spouses who receive alimony after a divorce are most concerned about the question, “Does alimony stop if you get remarried?”.

The answer will definitely be affirmative. If the spouse who has financial support from the other party remarries, alimony payments are terminated. Even if the end date specified in the order or agreement has not yet arrived, the paying spouse no longer has to transfer the amount of support determined by the court or parties on their own.

Does alimony stop when you live with someone? If you have not yet married someone else but already live as husband and wife with a person of the opposite sex, the alimony payments are also stopped. Termination of financial support does not apply to cases where you live with relatives. It takes place only in situations of cohabitation with a new partner. Therefore, note that you will not be able to build a new family and receive alimony from your ex at the same time.

Is Alimony Taxable in Pennsylvania?

The issue of alimony taxation is important both for the spouse who receives financial support and the other party who provides it. Who pays taxes on spousal support depends on the date when you got the divorce.

If spouses were granted marriage dissolution before December 31, 2018, the party paying alimony will deduct it from their income for federal tax purposes. The spouse receiving support will have to report it as income. Different rules apply to parties who have divorced since 2019.

Do you have to pay taxes on alimony if you obtained a divorce decree after January 1, 2019? According to the amended legislation, spouses receiving alimony are no longer obliged to include its amount in the list of their income. Instead, alimony for the parties paying it is not tax deductible.

So, is alimony taxable in Pennsylvania? Both yes and no, depending on when the judge gave you the divorce decree and which of the parties, the paying or the receiving one, you are.