Alimony is a gray area in Pennsylvania
Many folks believe that there is a set formula for alimony. These folks usually assume it is one year of alimony for every 3 or 4 years of marriage. I don’t know where on the internet they find this information, but it simply isn’t true, at least not in Pennsylvania.
It’s a secondary remedy and not guaranteed.
In any case, alimony is considered a “secondary remedy” in Pennsylvania. What that means is that the court is first going to consider how the overall marital estate should be distributed after taking into consideration several factors as provided for in the Pennsylvania divorce code, including but not limited to the overall assets and debts of the parties, length of the marriage, ages of the parties, types of assets, etc.
If, based on these factors, the marital estate cannot be distributed in a way that is “equitable” to the financially dependent spouse, the court will then consider awarding alimony.
Whether to award alimony is based on the facts and circumstances of the parties
Since there are so many factors to be considered, whether or not a person will receive alimony is extremely fact specific. No two cases have the exact same set of circumstances.
Give me some examples…
For instance, in a case where the parties own a house with moderate equity, the higher earning spouse has a pension, the parties have been married for 30 years, and both parties are in their 50’s, I could see a court awarding alimony to the financially dependent spouse.
However, in a similar case where the parties own a house with moderate equity, have been married for 30 years, both parties are in their 50’s, but instead of a pension, the marital estate has a savings account with $100,000 in it, the financially dependent spouse is probably less likely to get alimony.
In the first example, there is no cash readily available for the financially dependent spouse. Even if the pension is split between the parties, the financially dependent spouse will not see that income until the pensioner-spouse retires, usually in their mid-60’s. Alimony would have to be awarded to be fair to the financially dependent spouse.
In the second example, there is a significant amount of cash available right now that can be awarded to the financially dependent spouse that can be used to help cover their living expenses. Since the money in the bank is an asset, however, the court may not think it is fair for the financially dependent spouse to have to use that asset awarded in the divorce to live off of.
If split in half, why should the financially independent spouse get to keep their $50,000 in savings, but the financially dependent spouse has to use their $50,000 to pay their monthly expenses? In this case, it would be more equitable for the court to award the financially dependent spouse a higher percentage of the cash if it is not going to award alimony.
Consult with a family law attorney
As you can see, determining whether a financially dependent spouse will receive alimony in their Pennsylvania divorce is a very complex analysis. No two cases are the same. Consult with an experienced family law attorney to determine whether an award of alimony is likely in your case.