By Matthew T. Hovey, Esquire
Clients who are economically dependent on their spouses always want to know: how do they calculate alimony in Pennsylvania? Unfortunately, the answer is far more difficult to explain than the calculation of spousal support or alimony pendente lite. The goal of this article is to explain what the court considers in determining an award of alimony.
Alimony is authorized in Pennsylvania pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 3701(a), “General Rule,” which states that “where a divorce decree has been entered, the court may allow alimony, as it is deemed reasonable, to either party only if it finds that alimony is necessary.” The most important point to take from that section of the law is that alimony is completely discretionary. To evaluate whether alimony is necessary, the court is to consider the 17 factors listed in 3701(b). Those factors are:
- The relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties.
- The ages and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the parties.
- The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance, or other benefits.
- The expectancies and inheritances of the parties.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The contribution by one party to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other party.
- 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.
- The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage.
- 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.
- The relative assets and liabilities of the parties.
- The property brought to the marriage by either party.
- The contribution of a spouse as homemaker.
- The relative needs of the parties.
- 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.
- The Federal, State, and local tax ramifications of the alimony award.
- Whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property, including, but not limited to, property distributed under Chapter 35, to provide for the party’s reasonable needs.
- Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment.
If the court determines that alimony is appropriate, then pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 3701(c) the court will determine whether alimony should be indefinite or set for a limited amount of time. The court will apply the same factors in making this determination. Alimony can be awarded for the remainder of either spouses’ life. The court, pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 3701(d), is required to explain why it granted or denied an award of alimony, as well as, if it awards alimony, why it granted for a particular amount of time.
If you, a family member, or friend are interested in learning more about alimony in Pennsylvania, please contact our office for a free initial consultation.