Alimony is a payment that one spouse makes to another after a final divorce decree is granted. In Pennsylvania, alimony is not awarded automatically as a right. Instead, the court has discretion over who should get alimony and what amount the alimony should be.
The PA divorce code lists seventeen factors that the court must take into account when deciding the issue of alimony. These factors include the earning capacity of the parties, the length of the marriage, any marital misconduct by either party, the contribution of a spouse as a homemaker, etc. This long list of factors means that there is no set calculation for alimony awards. Each case can be very different. It is extremely difficult to predict an alimony amount before the court has a chance to hear the case.
In Pennsylvania, the parties may also enter into an alimony agreement voluntarily. It is important to note that any voluntary alimony agreement between parties should be presented to the court and made into an official Order of Court. That way, each party is protected for both legal and tax purposes, and each party will be able to enforce the agreement through the court system.
Alimony agreements are modifiable, however, to modify there must be a substantial and continuing change of circumstances. For example, if the party paying alimony has a high-paying job, but is then injured and will be unable to return to work in the same capacity indefinitely, that spouse may be able to petition the court to modify the alimony order. Also, alimony will be terminated if the party receiving the payments remarries.