Alimony, also called spousal support, is a regular payment one spouse makes to the other spouse to provide financial support during and/or after a divorce. The spouses may agree to the amount and duration of alimony, or the court may order it if the spouses can’t agree. In Pennsylvania, there are three types of support orders the court can make: spousal support, alimony pendente lite, and alimony.
Spousal support and alimony pendente lite are both orders made before a divorce is final. Spousal support is support paid after the parties separate, but before a divorce is final; it may be ordered before a divorce action is even filed. Pendente lite means "while the action is pending." Alimony pendente lite is a temporary order for support made after the divorce action is filed but before there is a final divorce decree. Orders for spousal support and alimony pendente lite can’t be in place at the same time.
When making an order for spousal support or alimony pendente lite, Pennsylvania law requires that the court use set guidelines to calculate the amount of the order. See Rule 1910.16-4 of the Pennsylvania Code for the formula the court uses to calculate spousal support and alimony pendente lite. The guidelines take into account the needs of the spouse asking for support and the net incomes and earning abilities of both spouses. The court may make an order that is different from the guideline calculation if there are special circumstances, like unusual expenses or needs. The court will consider the length of the marriage when determining how long the order will last.
Unlike spousal support or alimony pendente lite, alimony is an order for support made at the time or after the final divorce decree is entered.
There are no set guideline calculations that courts can look to when deciding whether to order alimony or to determine the type, amount, manner and duration of payments. The law requires that Pennsylvania courts consider the following factors:
Pennsylvania, courts may order that alimony payments continue for a
reasonable period of time depending on the circumstances. The order may
have an end date, or it may be an ongoing order with no set end date.
The court may review and change the order if the circumstances change.
The alimony order will end automatically if:
If the there are significant and ongoing changes in one of the spouse’s circumstances, a spouse may file a motion to modify (change) the spousal support or alimony order. For example, if one of the spouses has a significant change of income or becomes disabled, the court may modify spousal support because of changed circumstances.
In general, the spouse paying support can deduct the payments from income. For the spouse receiving support, the payments count as income and are taxable.