When a married couple decides to divorce in Pennsylvania, they must divide their property in a way that meets the standards of fairness imposed by state law. The goal is not necessarily a division that is equal, but one that is fair, and doesn’t leave one party at an unfair financial advantage.
In some cases, the parties can achieve this goal through property division alone. For instance, if both spouses work, the party with the higher income might take a smaller share of the marital property. In other cases, this is not enough. In these cases, alimony may be necessary.
Temporary or permanent
Alimony can come as the result of a court order or by agreement of the parties. When the parties establish an alimony arrangement, the court needs to review their agreement. When considering whether to order alimony, courts consider many factors, including the length of the marriage and the spouses’ earning capacities.
Alimony is temporary, or limited. For instance, in a case where one spouse is a student, alimony may be required until after they graduate and have a certain amount of time to get a job. In some cases it ends when the receiving spouse remarries or begins living with a new partner. A court may order permanent alimony in cases when one spouse is unable to earn a suitable living due to disability, or the need to care for children.
Now or never
It’s important to note that a court will only order alimony in a divorce. If the couple goes through the divorce process without alimony, and one party discovers only later that they need alimony, they will not be able to ask the court to order it. However, courts can approve modifications to existing alimony orders and agreements.