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According to Pennsylvania statutes, the courts cannot award alimony unless it is necessary. The court considers all relevant factors in determining the amount and duration of any award because alimony is based on the specifics of a case.
Courts must make written findings about the necessity of alimony and how it calculates it.
In determining alimony, courts apply the spousal support guidelines. The amount of spousal support arrived at under the Pennsylvania guidelines is presumed to be correct unless it is shown otherwise. Pennsylvania law sets forth specific guidelines for calculating spousal support and alimony pendente lite. If the spouses do not have children, the requesting spouse is entitled to 40 percent of his or her spouse’s income, less their own income. For example, if the paying spouse earns $150,000 and the receiving spouse earned $50,000, the APL or spousal support would be $40,000 per year ($100,000 times 40%). If the spouses have children, the child support amount is deducted from the difference in income and that amount is multiplied by thirty percent. For example, if the above spouse also paid $1,000 per month in child support, the APL or spousal support amount would be $26,400 ($100,000 - $12,000 = $88,000 times 30%).
Pennsylvania courts may consider whether the party seeking alimony is at fault in deciding whether alimony is appropriate. Fault is one of several factors that go into the court’s decision, but except for abuse, misconduct after separation is not considered.
Alimony may be modified if either spouse experiences a significant change in circumstances, such as a substantial increase or decrease in income. Alimony terminates if the recipient remarries.
Support payments may be deducted from federal taxes, and the recipient must pay income tax on the payments. Alimony from a former spouse is taxable in the year it is received.
After the court determines the alimony, the only event that will result in a modification is change of circumstances. The court has discretion to modify a support order if one or both parties have a sudden increase or decrease in income.
Alimony in Pennsylvania can be ordered for a limited amount of time or for a longer period of time depending on the circumstances and interests of justice. The court decides the duration of alimony based on the parties’ situation.
Even before a divorce petition is filed, a spouse can seek spousal support as soon as the couple separates. However, there are defenses to a request for spousal support, including desertion, adultery or abuse.
Types of Alimony
In Pennsylvania, alimony pendente lite (APL) is the support available after a divorce petition is filed. In addition, unlike with spousal support, there are no defenses to APL. Regardless of any misconduct, if a spouse has a financial need, a Pennsylvania court will award APL.
Factors Considered by the Court
In Pennsylvania alimony is discretionary, and it is based on need. The court has discretion about how much alimony to award. According to the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes - Title 23 - Sections: 3701, 3702, 3704, 3706, in determining the amount and duration of support, the court will consider:
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