Pennsylvania courts CAN and DO award alimony. The Divorce Code defines “alimony” as an order for support granted by a court of Pennsylvania, or any other state, to a spouse or former spouse, in conjunction with a decree granting a divorce or an annulment.

Supporting a dependent spouse is a duty that arises out of the marriage. A court imposed obligation to pay alimony also results from the marriage, but continues after the entry of a divorce decree. Alimony may only be granted as part of a decree granting a divorce between the parties.

The purpose of alimony is the same as spousal support, to provide the recipient ex-spouse with sufficient income to pay for the necessities of life after the divorce. It is specifically to “rehabilitate” the ex-spouse; that is to assist the ex-spouse to, for example, go to college or job training programs. Spousal support terminates at the entry of the divorce decree. After the divorce decree is entered payments to the now ex-spouse are called alimony.

The amount of alimony to be paid is determined in the same manner as spousal support-it depends on the income of the parties. Alimony is for the support of an ex-spouse alone, and not for the support of minor children. (See section on “Support for minor children and spouse”)

Alimony is not “automatic”. It is an additional remedy available to the courts and the parties after a determination is made that the reasonable needs of a spouse cannot be met just by the equitable distribution or division of the marital property.

Many factors need to be considered by the court and proved by the party seeking alimony. The length of time that alimony will be paid is also dependent on additional factors such as the length of the marriage, the health, education, income and overall financial status of the parties. Many other factors must also be considered as each case must be determined on the facts relevant to that case. Again, alimony is not automatic.

Alimony may be used as the means of making installment payments to achieve the distribution of property. There are times that in order to achieve the best result for the parties, property cannot be simply divided so one party pays the other in monthly payments to achieve the equitable division of the marital property. The true purpose of the payment is what will control when that payment will end. This too requires thought and consultation with Attorney Ghen.

By law alimony terminates, unless otherwise agreed between the parties, upon remarriage or cohabitation by the ex-spouse receiving the alimony as well as for other reasons.

As part of his family law service, Attorney Ghen represents clients in obtaining alimony or defending against alimony actions in Pennsylvania, specifically in Berks County.