Alimony FAQ Page
Fiind Answers to Your Questions
Alimony is payment made by one party to the other after divorce, either by court
order or by mutual agreement. That being stated, there are many factors
that can dictate alimony and it is one of the more confusing post-divorce
related issues. If you are looking for some clarity concerning alimony, our
Pittsburgh divorce attorney has answered a number of commonly asked questions. Check out our answers
below to learn more:
When is alimony awarded?
Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. Section 3701, the Court may award alimony, "as
it deems reasonable," if it finds that alimony is necessary. The
law states that post-divorce alimony "is a secondary remedy…available
only where economic justice and the reasonable needs of a party cannot
be achieved by way of an equitable distribution award and development
of an appropriate employable skill."
The court looks at 17 factors to determine whether alimony is necessary:
(1) The relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties.
(2) The age and condition of each party (physical, mental, and emotional).
(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 their 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
(8) The standard of living of the parties established over the course of
(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 owned by either party prior to marriage.
(12) The contribution of a spouse as homemaker.
(13) The relative needs of the parties.
(14) The marital misconduct (if any) 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
Before filing for divorce, you should carefully evaluate your financial
circumstances, what yours and your spouse's future financial needs
will be and who will more likely be able to support the other. If enough
property is given to a divorcing spouse, then that property could fulfill
the spouse's economic needs without the financial need of alimony.
What types of alimony are there?
In Pennsylvania, three types of support orders can be given:
spousal support, alimony
pendente lite and alimony. Spousal support is support paid before parties separate,
whereas alimony is support paid after the parties separate. Alimony
pendente lite is a temporary order for support after the divorce is filed, but before
it is finalized. A spousal support and alimony
pendente lite order cannot be in place at the same time.
A common type of alimony in Pennsylvania is rehabilitative alimony. This
is when one spouse gets financial assistance for only a few years after
the divorce and only until he/she is able to get back on their feet financially.
This type of alimony is often awarded so that the other spouse can go
back to school or obtain the necessary skills to be competitive in the
The other type of alimony our firm has often seen in Philadelphia is permanent
alimony. This spousal support is usually awarded when one party cannot
return to work due to age or physical or mental illness. Alimony is generally
not permanently awarded in Pennsylvania.
How long can I expect to receive alimony?
In Pennsylvania, there is no set time for paying alimony, it is purely
discretionary. After the Court has decided that alimony is reasonable
and necessary, it is up to a judge's discretion to determine the length
of time you or your spouse is awarded alimony.
Depending on how long you were married for, how long it might take you
or your spouse to find employment and other such events (retirement, your
child graduating from high school, etc.) could determine how long you
receive or have to pay alimony.
An alimony order will come to an end under the following conditions:
- The spouse receiving support (payee) remarries
- The payee is living with a member of the opposite sex who is not a relative
- The spouse paying alimony dies and the order does not state that payments
- The payee passes away
How much alimony will I get?
If you go the route of litigation, there are too many variables at play
to answer this question. Depending on yours and your spouse's standard
of living during your marriage, your earning capacities, your assets and
your expenses, will dictate how much alimony you receive or will have to pay.
If you choose to pursue mediation, however, you and your spouse will be
able to decide together whether alimony applies and what is a fair amount
to pay and for how long. This can be a good option if you are working
within a budget and need to determine what you can reasonably afford.
This is accomplished fairly when each individual prepares a post-divorce
budget of expenses and determines what he/she needs to live on and what
the payor can afford.
These agreements, however, are not part of the divorce until the Court
approves them and makes them part of the divorce decree. After this happens,
an alimony agreement has the same weight of law as an alimony amount determined
by the Court (according to Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes section
23-3701(f)). The Court will not allow an award of alimony that would divert
twice as much income to the recipient as the payor.
If I am a man, will I not be awarded any alimony, even if my wife makes
more than me?
Traditionally, alimony was paid by a husband to his former wife, but since
the 1970s, the Supreme Court ruled against gender bias in alimony awards.
In 2006, the percentage of alimony recipients who are male rose 3.6%.
Now that the stigma for asking for alimony has faded, family law attorneys
across the country report that males have become more aggressive in pursuit
of alimony awards.
In general, females may be more likely to be granted alimony then men,
because a large male-female income disparity still exists in the United
States. In 2010, the median income of full-time, year-round workers was
$42,800 for men and $34,700 for women. Nonetheless, gender is not one
of the factors considered by Pennsylvania courts before alimony is awarded.
If you are not given any property that could make alimony unnecessary,
you most likely will be awarded alimony, considering that one of the primary
factors the court considers before awarding alimony is, "the relative
earnings and earning capacities of the parties."
My ex-spouse is not paying me the full amount he owes me, what should I do?
If the other party has repeatedly violated court orders, you should address
this issue. Contempt of court is a very serious matter, and the payor
could have filed for a
modification of custody if he/she could not make the payments. If the problem cannot be resolved
by negotiation or by changing the current order, you may need to file
a Contempt Petition and take the matter before the court. Keep in mind
that such an order can carry very harsh penalties for the other party.
If a former spouse fails to pay alimony commitments, he/she can face wage
garnishment, can have their property seized, or could be forced into a
security agreement (according to Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes section
23-3703). To file a complaint and petition, you must do the following:
- Take your papers to the Court Administrator's Office (you should have
two copies, one for you and one for the defendant)
- Present the papers to the Court Administrator's Office
- The Court Administrator's Office will submit the necessary forms to
the Judge and ask for a hearing to be scheduled
- Keep all copies, receipts, notices, sets of instructions, etc. with you
so that you can take this with you when you attend the hearing
- You can then serve one copy of the Order and Notice and the Petition for
Contempt upon the defendant
We do not advise filing for a contempt petition unless the other party's
behavior has been particularly egregious, as this legal action can create
even more difficult conditions. Often other attempts can be made by you
and a divorce lawyer to convince/help the other party to live up to his/her
Civil contempt occurs when an individual disobeys a court order. Evidence
must be presented to a judge to prove the contempt. A civil contemnor
can be fined, jailed or both. This is not meant as a punishment, however,
but as a means of convincing the contemnor to comply with the court order.
As soon as the contemnor complies with the court order, he/she will be
released from jail.
If my financial status has changed and I need to secure a modification
of spousal support, what should I do?
If there is a significant and ongoing change in your circumstances, you
may file a motion to modify the alimony order. The court may modify spousal
support because of changed circumstances, for example, if you lost your
job or became disabled. Either former spouse can go back to court a request a
modification of alimony, reinstatement suspension or termination of alimony.
According to the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes section 23-3701(e),
the Court can later review and modify any order for alimony it grants.
When a significant or ongoing change in circumstances has occurred, the
court can increase, decrease, suspend or terminate alimony as it deems fit.
I own my own company and my wife has been a stay at home mom for years.
Will I have to pay rehabilitative alimony until she finds a job?
Most likely, yes. If your soon-to-be ex does not have enough money to support
herself or the appropriate skills to be competitive in the job market,
you may have to support her short-term, until she is established financially.
Keep in mind that Pennsylvania does not like to award alimony unless the
situation is deemed "reasonable and necessary." Alimony is awarded
where "…economic justice and the reasonable needs of a party
cannot be achieved by any way of an equitable distribution award and development
of an appropriate employable skill." In this instance, it would seem
"reasonable" that you support your ex temporarily, until she
has the ability to support herself.
She may want to go back to school or pursue another way of obtaining the
necessary skills to secure a decent-paying job. If she expresses this
interest, it is more than likely that the Court will order you to pay
rehabilitative alimony until she obtains these skills/secures a job.
How does the alimony I receive affect my tax filings?
Under 6 Pennsylvania Code Section 20.23 and 55 § 4305.35, alimony
is included in the definition of income. If you either pay or receive
spousal support, alimony
pendente lite or alimony, you should be concerned about the potential tax ramifications.
The spouse who pays alimony can deduct the payments from income (in accordance
with Title 55). If you are the one receiving the support, however, this
counts as income and is taxable (in contrast to
child support, which is non-taxable income).
You must report alimony you received on Form 1040 Line 11. Alimony paid
is reported on Form 1040, Line 31. Failing to report alimony on your tax
return can likely result in an IRS audit. If you are the alimony payor,
you must report your ex-spouse's Social Security Number on Line 31b,
and the amount of alimony on line 31a. Failure to give the Social Security
Number of your former spouse can result in a $50 penalty.
Unfortunately, even if the alimony is paid in pursuant to an agreement,
the agreement cannot state that the payment is not taxable. This would
make the payment not alimony at all. To learn more about taxes and alimony,
you can check out
this resource by the IRS.
Have more questions? Contact the Law Offices of Avram Y. Rosen!
If you have any more questions about alimony, or another divorce-related
issue, the Law Offices of Avram Y. Rosen would love to provide you with
the answers you need! Our divorce lawyer in Pittsburgh been devoted to
family law exclusively for
more than 15 years, so we have both the book knowledge and first-hand experience you can trust.
Click here to contact us today; we look forward to hearing from you soon!