Often, our Pennsylvania alimony clients ask their attorney whether or not martial misconduct, or "cheating," will affect their ex-spouse receiving alimony. This is likely because on television, in movies, and all over the media, anytime the word "alimony" is mentioned, there is always someone cheating in the story. And usually, in the media, the person cheating is denied alimony because of their infidelity. Today's blog will discuss the factors that Pennsylvania courts consider when awarding alimony. Many of these factors are to be expected, however, the "marital misconduct" factor is one that always raises questions and concerns in a Pennsylvania divorce case.
In Pennsylvania, there are many factors are relevant to determining whether an award of alimony is proper. Below, we present a few of them, including marital misconduct.
(b) Factors relevant.--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:
(1) The relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties.
(2) The ages and the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the parties.
(3) The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits.
(5) The duration of the marriage.
(8) The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage.
(10) The relative assets and liabilities of the parties.
(13) The relative needs of the parties.
(14) 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).
(17) Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment.
Number 14 states that "marital misconduct" of the parties is one of the factors that courts will consider when determining alimony in Pennsylvania. Whereas many may think that cheating is the ultimate bar to alimony, this is not necessarily the case in everyday family law practice. Although a court will consider marital misconduct, custody of the parties' children and a party's needs (based on their previous lifestyle and financial status) are more important in making this determination. Also important to note is the language of the PA statute, "the court shall consider all relevant factors," which typically means that a Judge is given discretion in determining the relevance of these factors.
To sum up: In Pennsylvania, marital misconduct is relevant for alimony purposes, but is not an ultimate bar. Contact our attorneys at Lisa Marie Vari & Associates if you have any other alimony questions or would like to set up a consultation with one of our Pennsylvania family law attorneys today!