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How Spousal Support Differs from Alimony in Pennsylvania


When you’re going through a divorce, you’ll be exposed to an array of legal terms and phrases, some of which have specialized meanings that may differ from your common understanding. As an instance of possible confusion, alimony and spousal support are not the same thing under Pennsylvania law.

Alimony is paid by one spouse after a divorce has been finalized, in order for the other spouse to maintain a standard of living comparable to the one enjoyed during the marriage. Spousal support is money paid by the higher-earning spouse for the care, maintenance and financial assistance of the other spouse while they are still married. Spousal support ends once the divorce decree has been issued, whereas alimony cannot be ordered until after a divorce decree has been entered.

When deciding on the need for alimony and on the nature, amount, duration and manner of payment, the court is required to consider all relevant factors listed by statute, including these:

  • The earnings and earning capacities of each spouse
  • The age and physical, mental, and emotional condition of each spouse
  • Each spouse’s sources of income
  • The duration of the marriage
  • Any contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other
  • Whether one spouse’s earning power, expenses, or financial obligations will be affected by serving as the custodian of a minor child
  • The standard of living of the spouses established during the marriage
  • The assets, liabilities, and needs of the parties
  • Any marital misconduct by either spouse

The court may order alimony to be paid for a definite or indefinite period of time. The payments will continue until the term is satisfied, the court enters an order for termination, either party passes away or the receiving party remarries or cohabitates with someone as a married couple.

In setting pre-divorce spousal support, courts follow a different method. If there is no child support involved, spousal support will be calculated at 33 percent of the higher-income spouse’s net earnings minus 40 percent of the receiving spouse’s income. When there is a claim for child support, spousal support will be set at 25 percent of the higher-earning spouse’s net income minus 30 percent of the receiving spouse’s income.

If you are facing spousal support or alimony issues in a Pennsylvania divorce, The Law Offices of Jennifer Courtney & Associates, P.C. in Yardley can offer experienced comprehensive guidance. Give us a call at 215.493.3360 or contact us online to set up a consultation.

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