Do I Have to Pay My Wife Maintenance After Divorce?
Updated: Feb 24
Spousal maintenance is paid by one spouse to the former spouse following a divorce. When separating spouses file for divorce, it is not uncommon for a spouse with a lower earning capacity to require financial support to get back on his/her feet. With alimony payments, he/she can get a smooth and secure transition into financial future and retirement.
Pennsylvania Support Overview
In Pennsylvania, a separating couple can encounter three types of support: alimony, alimony pendente lite, and spousal support. The difference between the three types of support is associated with the divorce stage process in which support is paid.
Alimony is paid to one spouse once the divorce is finalized, while alimony pendente lite is paid once the divorce is filed. Spousal support is paid to one spouse before the divorce or after separation is filed.
In most cases, the higher-earning spouse always pays alimony, alimony pendente lite, or spousal support. Alimony pendente lite and spousal support are determined according to a mathematical formula.
Alimony is determined based on the life and financial factors, including:
· Marital misconduct (for instance, cheating can affect ability to receive alimony)
· Relative needs of each spouse
· The property, assets, and liabilities owned individually or in the marriage
· The degree or education of each spouse
· The standard of living established during the marriage
· The contribution of one spouse to the other spouse’s increased earning power, training, or education
· The length of the marriage
· Any inheritances and expectancies of each spouse
· The sources of income of each spouse, including insurance, retirement, medical, and other benefits
· The age and physical, emotional, and mental health of each spouse
· The earning capacity and present earnings of each spouse
Types of Alimony in Pennsylvania
After resolving all financial issues and divorce becomes final, one spouse becomes eligible for alimony. The alimony amount a spouse is entitled to becomes part of their divorce decree.
In Pennsylvania, there are three alimony types:
This form of alimony is granted to one spouse as payment for expenses paid on the other spouse’s behalf. It includes payment of a marital debt, medical bills, or education.
This alimony type provides payments for all the former spouse’s lifetime or until he/she remarries. It is rarely awarded in the state.
This alimony provides temporary financial support for a specific period while the dependent spouse completes training, school, or other rehabilitation, allowing him/her to become self-supporting.
Separating couples must be aware that alimony in Pennsylvania is not automatic. The courts only award it if a spouse requires financial assistance to meet his/her reasonable financial needs and the other spouse is financially capable of providing that support.
· Generally, alimony is reserved for particular situations, such as:
· A person has been married for a long time
· A person does not work because he/she is the primary caregiver to minor children
· A person has a physical or mental disability, affecting his/her ability to earn money
· There is a big difference between a person’s income and his/her spouse’s income
How Long Does a Spouse Pay Alimony in Pennsylvania?
Again, Pennsylvania courts do not set a period for paying alimony because it is purely discretionary. On the other hand, if the payment is going to apply, the couple must carefully evaluate their situations, including the ability to pay off the paying spouse and the future financial needs of the recipient.
For instance, the rehabilitative alimony lasts only for a limited time or more to satisfy particular purposes, including one spouse’s financial needs after the divorce to retain himself/herself for a new career, clear his/her existing debt, or get back on his/her feet financially.
How Is Alimony Being Modified?
If either spouse’s circumstances have changed significantly, the court has the right to terminate, suspend, or modify the alimony order.
The case does not need to go to court through mediation due to circumstances change. After being decided in mediation, the terms in alimony are put into the marital settlement agreement. As a result, it becomes a fully enforceable court order providing legal protection on both spouses similarly if they had gone to the court. The agreement may involve provisions stating that alimony is modifiable under special conditions, including changes in disability, remarriage, and future income.
A divorce involving financial support can be a difficult process, but hiring an experienced divorce attorney in York can make it smooth with positive results.