Divorce is not merely a legal process. It is also an emotional one. Couples may begin the process in agreement about the terms of their divorce, but once the conversation turns to alimony, friendly dialogue can come to a stand-still. Alimony, or spousal maintenance, is an order by the court requiring one spouse to pay the other for a period of time. These payments can be awarded both during the divorce and after.
In Pennsylvania, a judge can decide if maintenance needs to be awarded prior to the end of the marriage. Spousal support and alimony pendente lite are two forms of pre-divorce maintenance available to dependent spouses (13 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3702).
- Spousal Support: Maintenance paid to a dependent spouse while the couple is separated but prior to a divorce being filed with the court system
- Alimony Pendente Lite: Maintenance paid to a dependent spouse after the divorce is filed but prior to it being finalized
When alimony is awarded before a divorce is finalized, the purpose is to help the dependent spouse pay living expenses and divorce fees. These payments are different from post-divorce alimony, and a judge will determine those payments separately from pre-divorce maintenance.
Like many states, Pennsylvania has post-divorce maintenance called alimony. It is similar to pre-divorce payments. Each type of payment exists to help a dependent spouse meet their basic needs, and alimony is a post-divorce payment made to support the dependent spouse until their financial situation is improved.
According to 13 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3701 (c), a judge will determine whether it is appropriate to award maintenance by evaluating a set of factors. While the court does expect each spouse to be financially independent, it realizes this is not possible in certain situations.
When Does Alimony End in Pennsylvania?
Alimony payments typically come with a shelf life. They do not last forever, so once alimony has achieved the purpose intended by the judge, it can be terminated. If the court didn’t set a date for the end of the alimony, then it will continue until the court rules otherwise.
Alimony also ends if:
- Either of the ex-spouses dies
- The dependent spouse remarries
- The dependent spouse begins cohabitating with a third-party in a pseudo marriage. (13 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3706)
Asking the Court to Modify Alimony
According to 13 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3701 (e), once alimony has been established, changes can be made through court modifications if either spouse makes a request. You may ask to have the order changed or terminated. The court only reviews cases if the parties can prove it is warranted. Examples of warranted causes would be loss of employment or disability.
The court can establish a payment system, but it’s best if spouses develop a plan that works for both parties. Payments can be made in a lump-sum payment or periodic and regular installments. According to Pennsylvania law 13 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3704,if there are issues with the regularity of payment, the court can establish a plan that requires direct withholding from the supporting spouse’s paycheck.
At William Kirby, Family Law Attorney, we can answer any questions you may have about spousal maintenance and alimony. Call today at (215) 515-9901 to schedule a consultation