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Alimony- What is it?

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Alimony is an award of payments from one spouse to another following the entry of a divorce decree.  There are a list of 17 factors the courts must consider in entering an award.

By Attorney Jeffrey B. Engle, Divorce Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

The Divorce Code defines "alimony" as an order for support granted by Pennsylvania, or any other state, to a spouse or former spouse, in conjunction with a decree granting a divorce or an annulment.  "Alimony" is a payment of support by one former spouse following divorce made to meet the needs of the other former spouse who is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment.  That is, "alimony" is based upon the reasonable needs in accordance with the lifestyle and standard of living established by the parties during the marriage, as well as the payor's ability to pay.  The obligation to pay alimony is a duty arising out of the marriage, but continuing after its dissolution.

The primary purpose of alimony is to provide the recipient spouse with sufficient income to obtain the necessities of life after the dissolution of the marriage.  Moreover, the purpose of alimony is not to reward one party and to punish the other, but to ensure that the reasonable needs of the person who is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment are met.  Its purpose is to fix an amount which is reasonable and proper for the comfortable support and maintenance of the spouse in need.

Like spousal support, alimony is awarded to prevent a dependent spouse from becoming a public charge.  The purpose of awarding alimony is rehabilitative, and it is the unusual case, as determined by considering the factors relevant to an award of alimony listed in the Divorce Code,  which would justify alimony designed to provide permanent support to equalize the income of the parties.  In determining whether alimony is necessary and in determining the nature, amount, duration, and manner of payment of alimony, the court shall consider all relevant factors including those set forth in the Divorce Code.

Here are a list of factors to be considered from the Divorce Code by a court in determining the amount and duration of alimony:

  • 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 (relating to definitions).
  • 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 (relating to property rights), to provide for the party's reasonable needs.
  • Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment.

A court is required to consider all of these factors in determining what is an appropriate award of alimony.  Each case is different and the assignment and affect of each factor on the total award will vary from case to case.  It is important to seek competent counsel to represent you when you are going through a divorce.  You may contact Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us today

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