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Alimony is a monthly payment of financial support made from one spouse (the income superior spouse) to the other spouse (the income inferior spouse) after the divorce has been finalized.  Alimony is discretionary and may be by agreement of the parties or order of the court.  The purpose of alimony is to ensure that an individual who is unable to be self-supportive through appropriate employment has enough financial support to meet his/her reasonable needs.  An award of alimony is not meant to equalize the incomes of the parties or be punitive in nature. 


In Pennsylvania, alimony is governed by the statutes contained in Chapter 37 of the Domestic Relations Code.  Pursuant to Title 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 3701, once a divorce decree has been entered by the court, the court may allow reasonable alimony provided that it is determined to be necessary.  There are seventeen (17) relevant factors that are considered by the court in determining whether alimony is necessary and the nature, amount, duration, and manner of payment. 


The seventeen (17) relevant factors are as follows:

  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.

  4. The expectancies and inheritances of the parties.

  5. The duration of the marriage.

  6. The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party.

  7. The extent to which the earning power, expenses or financial obligations of a party will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child.

  8. The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage.

  9. The relative education of the parties and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment.

  10. The relative assets and liabilities of the parties.

  11. The property brought to the marriage by either party.

  12. The contribution of a spouse as homemaker.

  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).

  15. The Federal, State and local tax ramifications of the alimony award.

  16. Whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property, including, but not limited to, property distributed under Chapter 35 (relating to property rights), to provide for the party's reasonable needs.

  17. Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment.


When an alimony provision is included in a marital settlement agreement, the parties may negotiate the amount and duration of alimony.  With regard to the amount of an alimony award, it is largely based upon the incomes of the parties and the division of marital property pursuant to equitable distribution.  With regard to the duration of an alimony award, it is largely based upon the length of the marriage and the ages of the parties.  In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the general rule of thumb is one (1) year of alimony for every three (3) years of marriage.  It is important to note that the duration of spousal support and/or APL payments will be taken into consideration when determining the duration of alimony payments. 


An order of alimony may be subsequently modified, suspended, terminated or reinstituted based upon changed circumstances of either party of a substantial and continuing nature.  Alimony may be modifiable if either party becomes unemployed or disabled.  It is important to note that an alimony provision in a marital settlement agreement may only be modified if there is a specific provision permitting modification.  Alimony will terminate if the party receiving alimony remarries, the party receiving alimony cohabitates with an unrelated individual of the opposite sex, or the party paying alimony dies.


Other Topics Of Interest:

Making Sense Of Divorce

What Is Marital Property?

What Is Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)

What Is Alimony?


Topics To Come:

Does it matter who files for divorce first?

Am I allowed to date?

Does Pennsylvania have a legal separation?

Affording a divorce

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