Home » Questions and Answers about Spousal Support & Alimony in Pennsylvania

Mar 6, 2014

Questions and Answers about Spousal Support & Alimony in Pennsylvania

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Divorce always brings an abundance of anxiety and confusion to life.  Alimony and Spousal Support often top the list of difficult subjects to be settled.

Whether you are on the paying or receiving end, there is often a fundamental fear that you will not be able to make ends meet.  Sometimes anger and resentment add fuel to the fire. While the anger and resentment are matters for a good therapist, the amount and terms of Alimony and/or Spousal Support payments are matters for a good attorney.

Here is some helpful information about alimony and support:


What is Spousal Support?

This is a payment made from a higher earning spouse to a spouse who earns much less or nothing at all.

Who gets Spousal Support?

It is not an automatic right and will be awarded based on a number of considerations that should be discussed with an attorney.

When is Spousal Support paid?

It covers the period from the time a couple physically separates and continues until the court issues a divorce decree.  If divorce litigation attorneys are hired, this can take years.  Divorce mediation is much more efficient so spousal support isn’t needed very often.

How is Spousal Support Calculated?

For a basic formula to calculate spousal support click here; however remember that the amount of each person’s earnings is the driving factor.  To get an accurate and fair Spousal Support payment figure both persons payroll and tax information must be carefully reviewed to determine their true earnings.   If this is not done, someone is likely to be shortchanged.

Is Spousal Support Taxable?

No it is not taxable to the person who receives it nor deductible to the person who pays it.

When does Spousal Support End?

It ends when the court issues a divorce decree.  Any further support then moves into the category of Alimony.


What is Alimony?

Alimony is a payment, usually monthly, made from a more financially secure spouse to a less financially secure spouse.  Sometimes it is to help them meet their needs and/or secure adequate education to improve their earnings.  Other times it is a payment that is used in place of an asset distribution that could not otherwise be made.

Who gets Alimony?

It is not an automatic right and will be awarded based on a number of considerations that should be discussed with an attorney.  The actual law that the courts and attorneys apply provides a list of 14 factors to be discussed and weighed.  Sometimes people end up paying a huge chunk of what they receive to their divorce litigation attorneys.  This is another compelling reason to use a less costly, more efficient divorce mediator.

When is Alimony paid?

It is usually paid on a monthly basis and begins after the divorce decree is issued by the court.

How is Alimony Calculated?

Unlike Spousal Support, Alimony requires a much more detailed analysis.  The budget and reasonable needs of the parties are studied to see what is needed and what is realistic.  This is an expensive undertaking with divorce litigation attorneys but much less so with attorneys who practice divorce mediation.

Does the Alimony Payment change?

Alimony can be made “modifiable” which means it can change upon the request of either person based on a change in their financial circumstances.  It can also be made “non-modifiable” which means it will not change no matter what happens.

How does “cheating” effect Alimony?

Although “cheating” is an emotionally charged issue, it has very little if any impact on the award of alimony.

Is Alimony Taxable?

Alimony may or may not be a taxable event.  Although divorce litigation attorneys never look at this aspect, a good neutral tax advisor can work with the couple to ensure that they both come out ahead of the IRS. When you have one spouse who earns a lot more than the other, it is actually beneficial for them to agree on making it a taxable event and have both of them share in the savings.

When does Alimony End?

Alimony ends after a set number of years or earlier if the person receiving alimony cohabitates or remarries.

Hopefully, this provides you with a good overview of spousal support and alimony.  There are always likely to be more questions, but please remember that it is a lot less expensive to get them answered by an attorney who practices divorce mediation than one who practices divorce litigation.