Divorce Lawyers Represent Clients in Alimony Determinations
Spouses who decide to divorce from one another must also determine how their divorce will impact their future financial situation and standard of living. Married couples who divorce must go from having to support one household to supporting two households. Thus, Pennsylvania law provides for alimony and other forms of spousal support, which ensure that a couple’s post-divorce finances still mean that both spouses maintain rough financial equality after divorce as close to the standard of living that the spouses enjoyed during their marriage.
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The alimony and spousal support attorneys of Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C. understand that the issue of alimony and spousal support can present a complex and emotionally difficult situation for divorcing couples. When a couple comes to the hard decision to end their marriage, they often want to quickly reach agreement on the issues their separation presents so that they can move on with their lives. However, alimony is often a critical tool that allows one spouse who is less financially well-off than their ex-spouse to adjust to living independently following a divorce. That is why our legal team strives to ensure that our Harleysville clients pursuing a divorce are treated fairly under the Pennsylvania alimony laws.
Types of Spousal Support Available in Divorce Cases
Contrary to popular conception, alimony and spousal support are not interchangeable concepts. Instead, both terms refer to different universes of payment obligations between separated or divorced couples. Alimony specifically refers to a financial obligation imposed following finalization of a divorce, while spousal support tends to refer to the general category of financial support and more specifically to the types of support that are available to a separated couple before they finalize their divorce. The types of spousal support that are available under Pennsylvania law include:
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- Spousal support: Payable during the period when spouses are separated but have not yet filed for divorce (or even decided whether they will file for divorce).
- Alimony pendente lite: Payable during the period following the filing of a divorce complaint up until the court’s issuance of the divorce decree.
- Alimony: The support payments that are ordered as part of the divorce decree and continue following the divorce according to the order.
Even though alimony only begins once a divorce is finalized, alimony does not necessarily continue indefinitely after a divorce. Instead, the length of an alimony obligation may be limited by the court depending on multiple factors, including the duration of the marriage and the ability of the recipient spouse to become financially self-sufficient. Alimony can also be terminated under certain circumstances, including a recipient spouse’s cohabitation with a romantic partner or his or her remarriage, or upon the death of the payor spouse (though in some cases a payor spouse will be required to obtain life insurance or other funds to secure continued alimony payments after their death). Finally, courts can modify existing alimony arrangements when the circumstances underlying the original order substantially change, such as when either party experiences a financial hardship or a substantial increase in income or assets.
How Our Alimony Attorneys Will Fight to Protect Your Rights in Divorce Cases
Determining an alimony obligation is a very fact-intensive process. When courts in Harleysville determine the amount of alimony to be paid, they look at a number of statutory factors, including:
- The relative income of the parties
- The relative earning capacity of the parties, which can be higher than the actual income of a party
- Whether one spouse acted as a homemaker or stay-at-home parent during the marriage
- Whether one spouse contributed to the education of the other spouse
- The length of the marriage
- The age and health of the parties
- The relative assets and liabilities of the parties
Because alimony determinations are a fact-specific analysis, you need an experienced and dedicated attorney who will protect your interests when you and your spouse are negotiating alimony or when the court is making a determination about an alimony obligation. If necessary, our legal team will engage financial experts and accountants who can discover if your spouse is hiding assets or income to get an unfair result in the alimony determination process. In addition, we can also help you determine the enforceability and impact of pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements on a potential alimony arrangement.
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Basic formula guidelines are just the beginning of the alimony determination and merely provide an estimation that can be affected upward or downward by other facts specific to your situation. If you need legal representation to help you understand a possible alimony obligation in your divorce case, or to help you enforce or modify an existing alimony order, contact us today to schedule a consultation where we can let you know your rights and options and how we can help you in your alimony matter.
Frequently Asked Questions about Alimony
Alimony has nothing to do with the emotional or personal aspects of moving on following a divorce. Instead, alimony is focused solely on maintaining financial parity between spouses as they go their separate ways. This is because marriage, at least in part, represents a financial partnership where two individuals build a household from their pooled income and resources. However, alimony can be modified or eliminated under certain substantially changed circumstances, such as if your ex-spouse remarries or begins cohabitating with a romantic partner to the extent that your ex-spouse and his or her partner begin sharing their living expenses.
The new tax laws preclude individuals who pay alimony from deducting those payments from their federal taxes and also mean that alimony payments are excluded from the income of the recipient. However, courts are free to consider the tax ramifications of alimony in determining the amount of an obligation. Thus, courts may be convinced to reduce alimony payments because the receiving spouse is now effectively receiving those payments tax-free.